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The Falcons Roster Bubble May Burst On These 10 Players

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Ten players who will be on the cusp heading into training camp.

Kevin C. Cox

It's hard to live on the fringes of an NFL roster. When the axe falls, as it so often does, you're left scrambling for work once more. A lot of fan favorites have fallen victim to the numbers game—I'm looking at you, dreadlocked white guy Bear Woods—and it's always a shame. Yet we must consider the roster bubble every year as the team slashes its way down to what we hope are the 53 best players.

These ten players are not the obvious cuts, the UDFAs trying to make it at stacked positions who don't have a realistic shot of surviving past the first round of cuts, much less through all of Falcons preseason. These are players who have a shot to make the final roster but for various reasons are going to need big camp and preseason performances to hold on to those roster spots. I chose ten because you people love numbered lists, according to science.

  1. Yawin Smallwood. The Falcoholic's official name crush is a slowish thumper with nice instincts, but the Falcons have a crowded linebacker depth chart and the rookie could wind up on the practice squad because of that.
  2. Tyler Starr. For all the same reasons, Starr might not stick. He was impressive in minicamp but will need to keep it up during full contact drills and in game situations to nail down a spot. The team's glaring need for pass rush would seem to give him a leg up over Smallwood—and the Falcons are less deep outside—but Starr will be worth watching closely.
  3. Darius Johnson. DJ could develop into a nice wide receiver and has shown sticky hands and better route running than Drew Davis, but he'll likely need to show special teams value and growth from a year ago to beat out Davis for the fifth receiver job. If the Falcons keep six, different story.
  4. Harland Gunn. I'm bullish on Gunn, a strong center/guard hybrid who is young and could have a bright future. Again, the interior is relatively crowded with veterans like Gabe Carimi, Mike Johnson and Peter Konz, however, and Gunn may still have practice squad eligibility. It's a little complex with him.
  5. Ryan Schraeder. You could also throw Carimi, Johnson, Terren Jones and maybe even Lamar Holmes here, but I'll choose Schraeder because he's a fan favorite already. There are tons of guys on this roster who have the ability to play some tackle, and realistically only a small handful are going to make it. Schraeder showed us something a year ago but Holmes, Carimi and Johnson have strong cases.
  6. Peria Jerry. Not a fan favorite. Jerry quietly had 3.5 sacks last year as a rotational lineman, but the depth chart has grown crowded and he'll be easy to cut ties with if the Falcons are comfortable with their other pieces. I'm willing to bet they will be.
  7. Josh Wilson. The team could keep six cornerbacks, but assuming they hold on to only five, Wilson could be the odd man out. He's been a better corner over the life of his career than Javier Arenas, for certain, but Arenas has special teams value, Robert McClain would appear locked in for 2014 and the team likes rookie Ricardo Allen quite a bit.
  8. Cliff Matthews. The kind of lunchpail lineman who shows up, doesn't author any big plays and chews up his fair share of solid snaps for a team with an average or worse defensive line. Like Jerry, he may fall victim to what should be an improved unit, one that doesn't necessarily need a player like Matthews any more.
  9. Mickey Shuler. While Shuler has to be considered the favorite for the third tight end job at the moment, the Falcons could elect to sign a player like Rob Housler, grab another blocking tight end or give that job to relatively promising UDFA Jacob Pedersen. He's guaranteed nothing.
  10. Kemal Ishmael. I like Ishmael and hope he sticks, particularly with Zeke Motta now gone. There's little doubt he needs to impress now, however, because the Falcons could go get veteran depth at safety for the veteran minimum at any time between now and late August.
Who is on the Falcons roster bubble, in your opinion?