Without fail, every year there are roster surprises for every NFL team. Some guys get cut that you were convinced would make it, while surprising names cling to one of the final 53 spots. The same was true this year for the Falcons, though as of this writing, there is still one roster position open to fill. Let's take a look at the roster and what it means for the team.
We'll skip any in-depth conversation about Matt Ryan. The only real competition here was for the backup position, and as it stands right now that backup is Sean Renfree. Between Renfree, Yates and a last minute addition of Rex Grossman, it was clear that Renfree was the best option of these three. He is not with his flaws - his inconsistent footwork being a glaring one - but he demonstrated good decision making, decent accuracy and a willingness to stay in the pocket to deliver the pass.
Though the starting position is still to be determined between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the surprise of this group was Terron Ward. The un-drafted rookie out of Oregon State got significant snaps this preseason with the injuries to Freeman, Coleman and Antone Smith, and it was apparently enough to land him a spot on the final roster. Many fans are still bemoaning the fact that Smith ended up on IR, but his early hamstring injury just didn't appear to be healing quick enough.
Patrick DiMarco makes the roster as the lone fullback, though there is some question whether he would have if Collin Mooney didn't end up on season ending Injured Reserve.
The newly extended Julio Jones and long-time veteran Roddy White were clearly never in doubt. Leonard Hankerson has shown to be a great free agent signing and could challenge Roddy for some WR2 snaps this season. Fourth round pick Justin Hardy showed enough value in special teams and as depth to keep on the roster while they hope he develops for the future.
Special teams value certainly carved out roster spots for Devin Hester and Eric Weems. Hester will likely get some snaps on offense, though the volume may be limited with the emergence of Hankerson. The most surprising name in this list is Nick Williams, who impressed throughout the preseason. Keeping Williams on the roster is likely a move for 2016 as he's unlikely to see any offensive snaps this year unless there are injuries above him.
At tackle, the Falcons currently only have three guys on the roster in Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder and Tyler Polumbus. That open spot on the roster could be for an additional OT, so this bears watching. Tackle is definitely a position of concern with Matthews missing the last preseason game due to a back injury and Polumbus turning in some terrible performances all preseason.
At guard, the Falcons feature Andy Levitre, Mike Person, and Chris Chester. The starters figure to be Levitre and Chester, though Person could slot in at LG if Levitre struggles with learning the scheme as a new signing. At center, Joe Hawley and James Stone make the roster. Hawley is the presumed starter, though his health continues to be a cloud over this position. Stone may end up back as a starter if Joe's health appears to be a hindrance.
The team will only carry two tight ends this year in Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo. Tamme likely enters the season as the starter, though Toilolo is likely to get significant snaps in this offense as well.
At end, the team will trot out Vic Beasley, Kroy Biermann, Malliciah Goodman, Tyson Jackson and Adrian Clayborn. The term "starter" won't matter as much in Quinn's defense, so you can expect all of these guys to get snaps throughout the year. The "starters" will likely be Beasley and Jackson.
At defensive tackle we have Ra'Shede Hageman, Jonathan Babineaux, Paul Soliai and Grady Jarrett. The first three names will likely get the majority of snaps in a rotation, though Jarrett may see a few per game. His contributions will likely be increased in 2016. Expect to see Soliai and Hageman as initial starters with Babineaux coming in during passing downs.
In the middle, the team has Paul Worrilow, Nate Stupar and Allen Bradford. Worrilow is clearly the starter with Bradford and Stupar being primarily special teams contributors (though both are very good ones at that).
At outside linebacker, free agent signings Justin Durant and Brooks Reed will be the likely starters - though Kroy Biermann figures to start the season in place of the injured Reed. O'Brien Schofield will likely get the majority of his snaps in sub packages as a pass rusher while Joplo Bartu serves as depth.
Starters from 2014 - Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford - will likely start the season on the outside. Free agent signing Phillip Adams is the likely nickel corner. The two remaining corners - 2nd round pick Jalen Collins and 2014 3rd round pick Dezmen Southward - will likely contribute primarily on special teams. Both are undoubtedly being carried for their potential, as both are taller (but raw) corners that fit the Dan Quinn mold. Their development will be critical.
William Moore returns as the presumed starter at strong safety with capable backup Kemal Ishmael waiting in the wings. Given Moore's injuries in recent years, expect Ishmael to get some snaps during the season.
Free safety is the position with the most turnover, as 2014 5th round pick Ricardo Allen has successfully made the transition to the position and is the starter. Veteran Charles Godfrey will likely be the primary backup at the position. The surprise here is Robenson Therezie, an un-drafted rookie out of Auburn. Therezie impressed coaches all preseason and he's a name to pay attention to going into the season. He could challenge for the backup position sooner than many think.
Matt Bosher as punter, Josh Harris as long-snapper and Matt "money" Bryant at kicker will surprise no one.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Falcons roster?