While a coach like Dan Quinn will tell you that everyone's competing for a roster spot, the reality is that some guys are guaranteed and others start at a disadvantage. Such is the case with every roster in every year, and I thought I'd remind us all of that brutal reality by looking at four guys who are definitely in danger of surrendering their roster spots in 2015.
There are obviously more than four players who are on the bubble here, but I tried to select those players we haven't really discussed to this point. That's why you won't see Tyler Starr, a very obvious bubble candidate, to use one example.
Paul Worrilow appears penciled in to at least back up middle linebacker, if not start there, Stansly Maponga has enough pass rushing potential to stick around and Prince Shembo appears headed for legitimate snaps. Tyler Starr is certainly no lock to stick around, as we've discussed, but even Marquis Spruill has that reputation as a potential impact special teamer to fall back on. I'm not sure Bartu has that.
I don't think Bartu played poorly last year, but someone's going to be a victim of the numbers game at linebacker, where the Falcons added Brooks Reed, Justin Durant and potential part-time linebacker O'Brien Schofield, plus anyone still lurking in the draft. Despite obvious athleticism and ability, Bartu hasn't stood out in his first two NFL seasons, and heads into 2015 needing an impressive training camp to battle his way onto the roster.
Holmes wasn't playing that poorly at the start of the 2014 season, but an injury cost him most of the year, and his 2013 season was largely the stuff of nightmares. Holmes has always had prototype size, but Ryan Schraeder played well in his absence, Sam Baker is still kicking around and the team could very well draft a tackle. Holmes' reputation for having slow feet won't endear him to a team making the switch to a zone blocking scheme.
I'm always rooting for Holmes, as he's a third round investment and someone I think genuinely has the physical tools to be a useful tackle. But if the team adds one more tackle just for depth purposes, or if they like Reid Fragel, it's entirely possible Holmes will be without a job come late August. He has no clear path to a starting job, at the very least.
Gunn is likely to be a victim of numbers. The Falcons have added Mike Person and Jared Smith, who can both play guard, and James Stone or a draft pick may also be in the mix at left guard. Jon Asamoah is firmly entrenched as the team's right guard at the moment, and while it's entirely possible that Gunn beats out Person and/or Smith, those are the new coach's guys. Peter Konz played in zone schemes at Wisconsin, and while it's certainly possible he'll get cut and thus clear a path for Gunn, I have a hunch he'll stick. Gunn has an uphill battle, is what I'm saying.
Gunn's saving grace will be that he has some experience at center, but that may not be enough to keep him on the roster if Stone remains there and/or Konz sticks around.
The Falcons made the somewhat unusual decision to keep three quarterbacks in 2014, a decision informed by the coaching staff's appreciation for Renfree. With T.J. Yates re-upping and the team apparently in the mix with Matt Schaub before he signed with the Ravens, it doesn't look overly promising for Renfree in Atlanta.
That's a shame, because if Matt Ryan goes down you're probably punting the season regardless, and Renfree has some unexplored upside Yates simply doesn't possess. Renfree will need to blow the team away in camp to have a legitimate shot to make the final roster, however, and Yates has an obvious leg up thanks to his contract, veteran status and creepy habit of talking to himself.
Tell us who you think is on the bubble, if you would.