clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Evaluating Falcons positional and roster battles following last night's win

The linebackers shined, while running backs and wide receivers (excluding Aldrick Robinson) failed to break away from the competition.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After relying on training camp reports and thirty second videos, everyone finally received a glimpse of the Falcons overall roster. There are several positional battles for starting and depth purposes. Last night's game provided a miniature sample size for evaluating certain players. Due to Chris Chester's lack of playing time and Mike Person playing mostly left guard, there isn't any point of evaluating the right guard battle at the moment. We'll have to see moving forward about that position.

Here are the other positions that will hold major importance during preseason.

Third-String Running Back

With Terron Ward suffering from a left ankle injury, it allowed Gus Johnson and Brandon Wilds more opportunities. Neither running back emerged as a potential threat last night, as the coaching staff equally used them. Johnson doesn't go down easily and showed decent vision, when the offensive line offered him an ounce of daylight. He still lacks agility and can't be used as a receiver. Wilds had some bright moments, but fumbled in the second half.

Committing a turnover is going to greatly damage any fringe player's roster status. Wilds displayed more promise, but neither player did anything to seriously challenge Ward. New signing Cyrus Gray may receive increased reps following pedestrian performances from both running backs.

Final Two Wide Receiver Spots

Aldrick Robinson was expected to make the roster before playing a snap in preseason. A three catch, 118-yard performance solidifies his place as the number four receiver. Robinson got behind the Washington secondary on multiple occasions. He did a good job of adjusting to Matt Schaub's slight underthrow on a 68-yard pass as well. Kyle Shanahan needs to utilize him in more ways than simply four wide receiver sets.

There were other exciting moments from the wide receivers. Eric Weems made a rare non-special teams play by catching a beautiful 48-yard pass from Sean Renfree. With his special teams value, Weems has to be considered one of the favorites to make the final cut. J.D McKissic's 101-yard kick off return will open some eyes about the returner situation. Despite receiving praise during the early stages of training camp, Devin Fuller shouldn't be promised a roster spot.

Fuller did have a nice 17-yard catch across the middle. The coaching staff needs to play him more over the next three games. Nick Williams showed his usual reliable hands and ability to get open in zone coverage. Fuller and Williams may end up competing for the final wide receiver spot, while McKissic will merit some consideration, if he continues to make big plays.

Starting Linebackers

Despite not having a definite starting weakside and middle linebacker, Dan Quinn could use all four linebackers in significant roles to start the season. Sean Weatherspoon was blazing across the field and looked rejuvenated. He made a crushing open-field tackle on Matt Jones, which isn't an easy task. As long as Weatherspoon remains healthy, the fan favorite should play in some capacity. They could use his range and experience for any situation.

It may be difficult to keep Weatherspoon on the field, since De'Vondre Campbell continues to earn rave reviews. The training camp standout showcased his ability on the field with multiple open-field tackles. Campbell did overcommit on a few runs and needs to work on his discipline. Allowing him to play alongside Deion Jones could be ideal for Quinn's nickel package.

Jones was very active against the run and managed to get off a few blocks, which scouts criticized him for not doing enough at LSU. Both rookies should earn more reps during the next two weeks. Paul Worrilow took a few bad angles in coverage, but played relatively well against the run. It's highly unlikely that we'll see anything different from the four-year linebacker. He could play in the base package, as Jones adapts to the NFL.

Cornerback Depth

Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld were conservative for the most part. Neither quarterback tested the cornerbacks very often, as they were successful on rollouts and shorter passes. C.J Goodwin was targeted a few times and didn't look completely overwhelmed. The converted cornerback broke up one pass, while only allowing two catches. Rashad Ross dropped a pass that would have gone over 30 yards against Goodwin.

There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the entire cornerback group. Akeem King was fortunate to not allow a touchdown, as he was late closing down Vernon Davis. The former seventh round pick responded well by stopping Maurice Harris from reaching the first down marker on a crossing pattern. Brian Poole looked smooth as a nickel corner, but was rarely tested. Hopefully, all the cornerbacks receive more chances to make plays going forward, as Quinn remains confident about finding Jalen Collins' four-game replacement and valuable depth on the roster.