When formulating such an extensive series like a franchise's uniform history, some numbers are bound to produce relative duds. The number 29 in Atlanta proves that theory. No Pro-Bowl or even impact players have worn number 29 in Atlanta. That doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon either. You will see many underwhelming or unknown names on this list, along with a few steady role players.
FS: Sean Baker
We start off with a current player on the roster. Baker has shown some flashes in pre-season from his ability to make plays in coverage. He’s still undersized and considered too slow to be effective as a starter. The jury is still out on him possibly being an asset towards playing special teams.
FS: Keion Carpenter
Knee injuries hindered Carpenter’s progression following a strong first season in 2002. The former Virginia Tech Hokie was always solid in coverage and proved to be quality depth for a young secondary. Multiple knee surgeries were too much for him to overcome. After losing his starting job to Ronnie Heard in 2005, Carpenter wasn’t re-signed and his career essentially ended following that season.
RB: Eric Dickerson
One of the greatest running backs of all-time was a Falcon for three months. Similar to Joe Washington and Steven Jackson, Dickerson went to Atlanta on his last legs. After eleven memorable years in Los Angeles and Indianapolis, he was traded to Atlanta for a sixth round pick. That trade ended up being a waste, as Dickerson played only four games in Atlanta. Jerry Glanville wanted to play younger players and the physical toll had caught up to him. The legendary running back ended his career in Atlanta, due to not passing a physical for Green Bay.
SS: Clarence Ellis
The 1971 All-American out of Notre Dame played three seasons in Atlanta. Ellis contributed with eight interceptions between 1972-1974. Multiple injuries affected his career, which led him to retirement after the 1974 season.
FS: Joe Fishback
It’s rare to see a player have two stints with the same team. Fishback started with Atlanta in 1991. He mostly excelled on special teams, which was proven through blocking a punt and returning a fumble for a touchdown during the 1991 season. After being signed by the Jets in March, he was released in October during the 1992 season. Fishback went back to Atlanta in 1993 before landing on injured reserve. Positive contributors on special teams never receive enough credence. Fishback had a knack of making plays on special teams. Injuries eventually caught up to him and, which led to him retiring after the 1994 season.
SS: Jamaal Fudge
In two seasons, Fudge played 13 games for Atlanta between 2008-2009. His lack of range in coverage obstructed his development into becoming a liable strong safety. No team signed him following his release after the 2009 season.
CB: Randy Fuller
The well-traveled cornerback played only one season in Atlanta. He was fortunate enough to play for the 1998 team that went to the Super Bowl. Fuller served as the nickel back and played fairly well in that role. My co-host Aaron Freeman of the Falcfans podcast speaks fondly of Fuller’s play. Atlanta chose not to re-sign him, which led to Fuller signing with Seattle.
CB: Ron Mabra
Mabra was only considered to be mostly a kick returner. That proved to be the case through his two seasons in Atlanta. In 1977, Mabra had a second opportunity to prove his worth with the New York Jets. That never came to fruition and Mabra was out of the league by 1977.
RB: Ron Rector
After failed stints in Green Bay and Washington, Rector was traded to Atlanta during the 1966 season. He developed into a solid backup running back. Unfortunately, that only lasted one-and-half years. Rector suffered a fractured skull from a motorcycle accident in June of 1968. He died from that injury at the age of 24. A tragic ending to a once-promising career.
FS: Louis Riddick
The current on-air analyst for ESPN had multiple stints with Atlanta. Despite being drafted by San Francisco, Riddick made his actual NFL debut for the Falcons in 1992. That didn’t pan out and was cut for the second consecutive year by a NFL team. After three seasons in Cleveland, Riddick was brought back in 1996. The former Pittsburgh Panther was a serviceable backup safety that can play special teams. He was released again following one season, before ending his career in Oakland. It was a strange NFL career for one of the top current analysts on ESPN.
CB: Lewis Sanders
Unfortunately for Sanders, he played for the infamous 2007 team led by frightened head coach Bobby Petrino. It was his only season in Atlanta, as the team went through an emphatic rebuilding process in 2008. Sanders struggled significantly for Houston during the 2006 season. His versatility in playing both corner and safety intrigued general manager Rich McKay. That proved to be detrimental, as quarterbacks picked on him consistently. Chris Houston eventually replaced him in the middle of 2007, which made him expendable. After one season in New England, his career ended in 2009.
RB-WR: Sylvester Stamps
The dual-threat played six seasons for Atlanta between 1984-1988. His versatility was evident from being used as a running back, wide receiver, and a full-time kick returner. At five-foot-seven, Stamps was the prototypical explosive role player that can be utilized in some capacity. Injuries derailed his career between 1987-1988 through playing only 11 games combined. Tampa Bay gave him an opportunity in 1989, before his career virtually ended.
CB: Darrin Walls
After going un-drafted in the 2011 draft, Walls has developed into a solid backup. That development has taken place with the Jets. Atlanta didn’t give him much of an opportunity during the 2011 season. After one season, he was cut during training camp and the Jets signed him for depth purposes. Walls has made the most of replacing Dee Milner through the past two seasons. For an un-drafted player, Walls has truly had a respectable career so far.
CB: Brian Williams
Due to having a connection with Mike Smith in Jacksonville, Williams seemed to be a perfect fit in Atlanta. The secondary needed him in 2009 following dreadful pre-season performances from Chris Houston and Brent Grimes. Williams brought a sense of stability and physical play to the young secondary. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in week six against Chicago from breaking up a potential touchdown pass to Greg Olsen. He did give them one more solid year in 2010, although injuries hindered him once again. His ability to cover in the slot was missed significantly in the embarrassing home playoff loss to Green Bay. Williams was unable to recover from these injuries and retired in 2011.
It's hard to justify selecting any player for this number, given the lack of quality options. Injuries affected several players on the list, while other players simply weren't good enough. Carpenter gave Atlanta two quality seasons, particularly for the memorable 2002 playoff team. No other player on the list produced consecutive solid seasons like Carpenter. Some fans may wonder what would have been like if Dickerson was on Atlanta at age 28. They also may wonder how Sanders started at cornerback for eight games. Carpenter is the best number 29 in Falcons history, although it won't take many quality seasons to overtake him.