Every season as teams trim down their rosters to the final 53, there are always surprises in terms of players who are released and players who make the cut. Our writers came together to discuss the biggest surprises in terms of players who were cut and retained by the Falcons.
Caleb Rutherford - Robensen Therezie
If you don't remember this guy playing much, don't fret. Neither do I! That's because Therezie played as many snaps on defense as O'Brien Schofield (47) and three more than Babineaux (44). I don't recall this guy standing out on special teams, either. His measurables are solid; he posted a 4.37 40 yard dash and 19 bench reps at his pro day. He's only 5'9" and seems to be more of a hybrid safety, so I can only assume Dan Quinn has a specific role for him in mind.
The DW - Dezmen Southward
If anything, the transition to corner has been a rough one for Southward. The converted safety has the size and speed that Dan Quinn covets, but he's just not ready to take on any cornerback responsibilities. With Kevin White playing decently this preseason, I truly believed Southward would be stashed on the practice squad, giving him more time to learn the position.
Alec Shirkey - Nick Williams
If we're looking at this in a vacuum, Williams clearly has some value. His preseason numbers (17 catches, 157 yards) weren't too shabby, even with that production coming against backups, and he has familiarity with Kyle Shanahan's offense. But the decision to give him a final roster spot and keep seven receivers, compared to only two tight ends and three running backs, really puzzles me. Heck, the Falcons could have probably gotten by with stashing him on the practice squad. Unless Shanahan has some grand plan for Williams up his sleeve, there simply won't be many snaps to go around for the undrafted UConn grad. A head-scratcher for sure.
Kendall Jackson - Nick Williams
Sure, Williams made some plays in the preseason, but he'll be the seventh wide receiver on the Falcons' roster and is unlikely to see game time. Does this team really need seven wide receivers? It's particularly baffling when Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo are the only tight ends currently on the roster and there is virtually no depth behind Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder.
Allen Strk - Nick Williams
The logistics of keeping seven wide receivers on a NFL roster doesn't correspond at all. Regardless of Williams' excellent production, there is simply no room for him to contribute. Devin Hester is going to struggle for reps, which showcases how strong the wide receiver depth has become over the course of the off-season. It seems bizarre to have seven wide receivers and just two tight ends on the roster, particularly for a team that has struggled to run block. The meaning behind keeping Williams seems relatively senseless. A place on the practice squad would have been ideal.
Matt Chambers - Terron Ward
I understand with nagging injuries to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman that the team needed another running back. And I understand that Antone Smith had to leave the team due to injury. And I understand that Ward impressed earlier in season. But Ward was not impressive in preseason. He looks like Michael Turner after "the Burner" had nothing left. At five-foot-seven and 201-pounds, Ward may remind you of a slower, slightly larger Jacquizz Rodgers. It may be harsh for an undrafted rookie, but I hope we do not see Ward's preseason 2.7 YPC during the regular season.
Jeanna Thomas - Nick Williams
I said repeatedly that the Falcons would be forced to waive Nick Williams because the special teams value of both Devin Hester and Eric Weems makes them too valuable to cut. I could not fathom the Falcons choosing to keep seven receivers. I was wrong. Lingering toe issues for Hester and Roddy White coming off of recent elbow surgery may be a factor here, but I remain surprised that the team is carrying seven receivers.
Caleb Rutherford - Antone Smith
The release of Antone Smith is one very few expected, though the rumors of an injury bring about a little understanding to the situation. I thought maybe his injury was just another soft tissue injury that would have him out a few weeks, but it looks like it was much more serious. Whenever he'd receive an opportunity, Antone brought about an excitement that few other players have been able to match. It's an unfortunate end to a Falcons career that could have been so, so much more.
The DW - Joe Hawley
We knew going into camp and the preseason that Brawley wasn't 100% healthy. Most of us assumed that he'd be able to play through the soreness and pain and he even said as much. However, as the preseason games wore on it became clear that the team had other thoughts about who would start at Center, whether it was Mike Person or James Stone. Even still, when healthy, Hawley was a leader on this offensive line and a good fit for the outside zone blocking scheme being brought in. He was also good with protection calls and had a strong rapport with Ryan. It's a concerning cut and one that could have repercussions in the first several games of the season.
Alec Shirkey - Jake Rogers
Had it not been for Antone Smith's apparent injury, I would have made him my pick. As for Rogers, releasing a seventh-round draft pick before the season starts normally doesn't qualify as a major surprise, and perhaps he sticks around on the practice squad. But is Bryce Harris really an upgrade? Lamar Holmes is on the PUP list, and Tyler Polumbus didn't exactly instill a ton of confidence with his preseason play.
Kendall Jackson - None
It was clear Joe Hawley wasn't completely healthy. He played mostly with the second-teamers and didn't look fantastic. Antone Smith suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason opener and didn't quite recover as evident by the Falcons reaching an injury settlement with him. Tony Moeaki injured his ankle, but he wasn't exactly a standout in preseason. I was slightly surprised by the release of the those three players — Hawley because of his familiarity with Matt Ryan, Smith because of his big-play ability and Moeaki for depth purposes — but none of other cuts stood out to me.
Allen Strk - Kevin White
If Moeaki didn't suffer a serious ankle injury, then he would have been an easy choice. White showed steady improvement over the course of pre-season. While some may wonder about him being invisible through the last two games, that would mark the sign of a cornerback doing their job. The opposing quarterback felt far more comfortable targeting Dezmen Southward, who somehow kept a place on the roster. In the end, Quinn likely favored Southward's size (six-foot-two) over White, who stands at five-foot-ten. White showed far more ability as a cover corner and looked capable of fulfilling a backup role.
Matt Chambers - Both Seventh Round Selections
The Falcons roster has seen plenty of turnover the last few months, and my expectation was anyone picked by the new staff had an easy path to a final roster spot. Not true, at least for Atlanta's last two draft selections: CB Akeem King and OL Jake Rodgers. Both were expected to be raw, developmental prospects more likely to land on the practice squad. However, the team is dangerously thin at offensive line and could use the likes of Rodgers for depth. King had an uphill battle at corner, but the new braintrust did not feel like he could have provided depth at safety. Maybe it feels weird cutting rookies because Mike Smith seemed to give all draft picks a "mulligan" year on the roster, even when they were never going to play.
Jeanna Thomas - Joe Hawley
It had become apparent that the coaching staff wasn't sold on Hawley as a starter, whether due to his play or lingering soreness in his knee following last year's season-ending injury. Still, you just don't expect to get through the entirety of camp and preseason and all of a sudden be looking at a brand-new starting center. I'm still confused by this move, and more specifically, the timing, honestly. I hope it works out better than I expect.
What were your biggest surprises among the Falcons' cuts and keepers?