The Falcons likely aren't done tweaking their roster just yet, but at some point we've got to sit down and try to map out what the team's depth chart is going to look like in 2015. There's no time like the present, in my humble opinion.
Let me give an appreciative tip of the cap that hides my baldness to the entire Falcoholic team, who held down the fort while I took a vacation in the wilderness and delivered you all the bewildering news that was fit to type over the last several days. I'm still reeling from the Joe Hawley cut earlier today, and scratching my head over the presence of seven wide receivers on the roster.
Accepting that chaos rules the day and this offense will change frequently in 2015, here's my best stab at a depth chart heading into Monday night's game against the Eagles. It has a mix of quality skill position talent and gambles along the offensive line, and we'll hope that's enough to carry the unit to new heights.
Starter: Matt Ryan
Matt Simms (PS)
Ryan is a terrific starting quarterback who should have a fine year in this Kyle Shanahan-led offense so long as he stays healthy behind a potentially porous offensive line. Renfree is an accurate quarterback who is short on arm strength, and would (hopefully) be an effective manager if ever called upon. Matt Simms threw a ball backwards in a Bills preseason game.
Starter: Tevin Coleman
Coleman showed well against the Ravens' backups and looks like the healthier back heading into the season, so he's at the top of our depth chart for the moment. Freeman is the more complete player, but hasn't gotten into game action thus far in preseason and may need to be eased into it. Ward showed the coaching staff enough to stick around, but he profiles more as a decent short yardage option and occasional blocking back than anyone the team will count on. Antone Smith's speed may be sorely missed here.
Mike Gillislee was originally reported as a practice squad addition, but hasn't officially signed yet. The team is likely to add a back to the practice squad, regardless of who it is, because this position currently lacks depth.
Collin Mooney's injury opened the door for DiMarco, who isn't a spectacular blocker but does offer pass catching ability and special teams value. Hopefully the blocking has improved a bit from a year ago.
Starter: Julio Jones
Starter: Leonard Hankerson
Julio is one of the greatest wide receivers in the NFL. Hankerson looks healthy and showed quality wheels and hands this preseason, at least temporarily vaulting him ahead of the great Roddy White, who figures to return from surgery against the Eagles. Hardy is a sure-handed receiver with veteran route running ability who should be a factor over the middle of the field.
Hester and Weems are here chiefly for special teams value, while Williams will be inactive and figures to be one of the first candidates for cuts should the Falcons make an addition elsewhere on offense, even though he was legitimately impressive in preseason.
Starter: Jacob Tamme
Marcel Jansen (PS)
Tamme didn't do much in preseason, but you know what he is: A plodding, catch-first tight end who should serve as a capable fourth target for Matt Ryan in the passing game and block well enough to keep himself on the field. Toilolo made some strides this year and figures to get in on two tight end sets, be called upon to block, and occasionally factor into goal line packages due to his height.
Jansen is a deeply intriguing athletic freak who stands 6'6" and has spent time bouncing around from practice squad to practice squad as a UDFA. This is the coaching staff taking a shot on a player with upside, even if he hasn't shown much to this point. Look for the Falcons to be amenable to signing a third tight end at some point in 2015.
Starter: Jake Matthews
Starter: Ryan Schraeder
Pierce Burton (PS)
Matthews is in his second year and the arrow should be pointing up, but he's battling an injury right now, and we have to see how that shakes out before we put a ton of confident in a breakout year. Schraeder is a fine tackle with enough athleticism to play in Kyle Shanahan's offense, and I have faith he'll enjoy a quality season on the right side.
Polumbus hasn't been good in a while, and is here largely due to his familiarity with Shanahan's offense and reasonably quick feet. Harris was a punching bags for Saints fans a year ago, and is here largely due to his athletic ability...or so I'm assuming.
Burton was quite impressive in his preseason action and surprisingly earned a practice squad spot over seventh round rookie Jake Rodgers. He'll be emergency depth for injuries or faltering tackles, so he may see some time on the active roster this year.
Starter: Andy Levitre
Starter: Chris Chester
Levitre is a big-time bounceback candidate and the obvious choice to start at left guard, but he was legitimately bad in Tennessee and will have to prove he still has the skill that made him a big-ticket free agent after the 2013 season. Chester knows the Shanahan offense like Polumbus, but unlike his former linemate, he's still a reasonably effective player who profiles to be one of the team's better linemen in pass protection.
Center is still a little unsettled, frankly, in that I don't know if Stone or Person will be starting at the position. Whichever one isn't will settle in as depth at guard, and the Falcons could shuffle that around a little bit. The team is currently a little thin on the interior, to put it mildly.
Starter: James Stone
I'm presuming Stone will start because I thought he showed reasonably well at center a year ago despite being forced into the lineup as a 22-year-old UDFA, and because he didn't exactly look comfortable at guard. There's upside here, though you wouldn't know it by that description.
Gradkowski was one of the league's worst starting centers in 2013, but he has plenty of experience and has spent most of his career on zone blocking lines, so he's decent depth to have around. Person is versatile enough to move around and will likely do so as needed.
Come back tomorrow morning for a look at the defensive depth chart.
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