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Falcons 53-man roster projection: Preseason Week 2

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After one game of preseason action, who has made their case for a spot on the final roster and practice squad?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We made it! The first preseason game is in the books, allowing us a first glimpse at the players we’ve been prognosticating about since the draft occurred. It was a great night for some players (Marvin Hall, De’Vondre Campbell, J’Terius Jones) and a pretty terrible one for others (Jalen Collins, Marcelis Branch, Sean Harlow), but at least it was Falcons football baby!

With all that football knowledge implanted into our memory banks, it’s time for me to take another stab at predicting the final 53-man roster (and practice squad!) of the 2017 Atlanta Falcons. If you’d like to see the previous iterations of my roster predictions, you can find them here: post-draft, pre-camp. Changes from my previous version are denoted with italics. Follow along with my entirely-too-early predictions below.


OFFENSE - 24

QB - 2

QB Matt Ryan
QB Matt Schaub

No change here from my previous projections. The Falcons have shown over the last several seasons that they’re comfortable carrying only two QBs into the season, and nothing should change in 2017. Ryan is among the best in the league and Schaub is, at worst, a serviceable back-up with a ton of experience in the scheme.

RB - 4

RB Devonta Freeman
RB Tevin Coleman
RB Terron Ward
RB Brian Hill

Some intrigue! Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman comprise perhaps the best 1-2 RB tandem in the league, but the battle for the third RB spot has been one of the most exciting this offseason. Hill is the more talented player with the higher potential, but Ward has years of experience in the scheme. Ward outplayed Hill in the first preseason game, but that could change. The team isn’t going to cut Hill, but if they don’t think he’s ready for action yet, they could keep Ward around for another season.

FB - 1

FB Tyler Renew

I’m still going out on a limb here and thinking Renew surprises folks and beats out Coleman for the FB role. Coleman got the snaps with the ones, and looked fine, but Renew got a ton of work later in the game. He took a couple of carries and, more importantly, caught a few passes. He’s a more dynamic player and will have to continue to use that ability to offset his lack of experience.

WR - 6

WR Julio Jones
WR Mohamed Sanu
WR Taylor Gabriel
WR Justin Hardy
WR Andre Roberts
WR Marvin Hall

I’m still a firm believer in the top five receivers on the roster—Jones, Sanu, and Gabriel are locked in, with Hardy a fantastic rotational player and Roberts impressing on special teams in the preseason. The sixth spot is totally up for grabs, however. After the first preseason game, it’s hard to keep Marvin Hall off the roster. He made several highlight plays, showcased good hands, and generally looked like a dynamic, versatile receiving option. He also offers return ability (assuming he can hold onto the ball a bit better).

TE - 3

TE Austin Hooper
TE Levine Toilolo
TE Eric Saubert

If the team feels like they need to keep Ward on the roster until Hill is ready, a cut will have to come from somewhere. The most likely spot is TE, where the team carried an unusual four players last season. Hooper and Toilolo are safe and locked in as the 1 and 2 options, while Saubert is a 5th-round pick with tantalizing potential. He struggled a bit in the first preseason game, but that’s to be expected for a player coming out of Drake.

OL - 8

LT Jake Matthews
LG Andy Levitre
C Alex Mack
RG Wes Schweitzer
RT Ryan Schraeder

C/G Ben Garland
G Sean Harlow
T D.J. Tialavea

The battle for RG rages on, but it seems like both Garland and Schweitzer can be at least decent options there after some limited action. I still think, if all things remain equal, the team will have Schweitzer ultimately start there. The other starters are all locked in from last year, and all are pretty darn good.

The depth players are where it could get a little interesting. The loser of RG will likely be the primary interior back-up (again, preferably it would be Garland who has experience at C and G). Harlow looked pretty awful in his first NFL action, but we all knew he was a project. He seems to be safe, but it’d be good for everyone if he improves in the coming weeks. It’s likely he’ll spend his rookie year the same way Schweitzer did: inactive. Swing tackle is a huge question mark—and I still firmly believe they’ll bring in a veteran option after final cuts—but D.J. Tialavea made a strong case for his future at T. For now, he appears to be the best option.


DEFENSE - 26

EDGE - 4

EDGE Vic Beasley
EDGE Brooks Reed
EDGE Takkarist McKinley
EDGE J’Terius Jones

The EDGE group is looking pretty good coming into the season. Beasley led the NFL in sacks, and the hope is he can translate that into more consistent production. Reed is a solid, jack-of-all-trades player who can do a bit of everything decently. The rookie McKinley is a wild-card, but the hope is that he can contribute early on passing downs. A player who really made their case for the roster in the first preseason game was J’Terius Jones, who looked like a dynamic rusher from all over the defensive line. He’s a Reed-like player who can line up at EDGE or as a SAM LB, and has a shot to stick on the roster with more performances like that.

DE/DT - 4

DE/DT Adrian Clayborn
DE/DT Jack Crawford
DE/DT Derrick Shelby
DE/DT Courtney Upshaw

The “hybrid” group is strong and deep, and that didn’t change after the first preseason game. Clayborn will continue to be a base end, nickel rusher. Crawford will likely play more on base downs, but I’m interested to see how Quinn works him in. Shelby looked a bit rusty coming off his injury, but there’s no reason to panic—yet. Upshaw is simply a solid, high-motor rotational piece that can play competently when called upon.

DT - 3

DT Grady Jarrett
DT Dontari Poe
DT Ra’shede Hageman

The pure DTs, while not particularly deep, are undeniably talented. Jarrett could be in for a breakout season playing next to noted actual giant Dontari Poe, who looked disruptive and athletic in his first game as a Falcon. Hageman also impressed throughout the game—the question is: can he do it consistently, like he did at the end of 2016? This is his last chance to prove it.

LB - 6

LB Deion Jones
LB De’Vondre Campbell
LB Duke Riley
LB LaRoy Reynolds
LB Kemal Ishmael
LB Jermaine Grace

The LB depth again looked like a strength against the Dolphins, with Jones and Campbell playing superbly. Riley struggled a bit at times, but that’s not entirely unusual. Reynolds is a core special teams player and a decent back-up, and isn’t likely to be unseated. Ishmael offers a unique role as a LB/S hybrid, and his versatility helps keep his roster spot safe. Grace looked pretty impressive against lesser competition, and as a similar player to Jones and Riley, he’s a natural choice to back them up.

CB - 5

CB Desmond Trufant
CB Robert Alford
CB Brian Poole
CB C.J. Goodwin
CB Deji Olatoye

Jalen Collins’ suspension essentially opens up an extra roster spot (which, in this scenario, the Falcons use to keep J’Terius Jones on the roster). The Falcons will probably be comfortable keeping only 5 CBs with the knowledge that Collins will return later in the season. None of these names should surprise you—Trufant, Alford, and Poole all played well last season, with Goodwin and Olatoye providing competent depth.

SS - 2

SS Keanu Neal
SS Sharrod Neasman

No surprises here. Neal is already emerging as one of the best SS in the league, with his physical and instinctive style of play. He also played remarkably well in coverage, which was supposedly a weak point in his game. Neasman looked pretty good playing with the first team against the Dolphins, and none of the other safety prospects impressed enough to warrant them jumping him.

FS - 2

FS Ricardo Allen
FS Damontae Kazee

Neither of these two are big surprises either. Allen looked far more comfortable as a FS towards the end of last season, and should only continue to improve with a stronger front-7. I don’t remember seeing Kazee during the first preseason game, which is maybe a good thing for a DB. Regardless, he’s played well during camp, and he’ll be the primary back-up behind Allen.


SPECIAL TEAMS - 3

K Matt Bryant
P Matt Bosher
LS Josh Harris

Matt Bryant missed a kick during the game, so his days are clearly numbered...OK, not really. The most interesting thing we can say about special teams is that we’re lucky to have Bosher out there covering kicks and not Mike Meyer. Otherwise, this group is very good, and should continue to be good in 2017.


PRACTICE SQUAD - 10

A lot of changes here after the first preseason game.

  • QB Alek Torgersen - No change here. I think Torgersen impressed enough to warrant his spot on the practice squad. Showed poise, a quick release, and pretty impressive scrambling ability in his debut.
  • WR Reggie Davis - Davis impressed alongside Marvin Hall in the first preseason game. He had his highlight play called back because of a penalty, but Davis looked dynamic against lesser competition. Could have potential down the line.
  • CB Jarnor Jones - Jones showed off some excellent awareness with his sideline interception in the red zone. He also looked pretty competent in coverage. To get this spot, you have to stand out, and he did so.
  • S Quincy Mauger - Mauger had a pretty quiet game on Thursday, but his best trait was not giving up bad plays like his main competition Marcelis Branch and Deron Washington.
  • T Daniel Brunskill - This spot likely gets taken by Tialavea if/when the team signs a veteran swing tackle. Still, Brunskill looked decent against the Dolphins, and is an intriguing developmental player.
  • TE Josh Perkins - The consequence of the team keeping 4 RBs is that Perkins gets pushed off the roster. I think he’ll clear waivers and make it to the practice squad, where he’ll be the first one called if the Falcons have injury issues at TE.
  • C/G Cornelius Edison - Edison has starting experience and looked solid all night against Miami. He should stick around on the practice squad in case of injury.
  • LB Josh Keyes - Keyes was a decent special teams player and reserve LB from last year. With Grace making the roster, Keyes shifts back to the practice squad.
  • DT Joe Vellano - Vellano showed some pass rushing ability throughout the first preseason game. The Falcons would love to keep him around on the practice squad for depth purposes.
  • K Mike Meyer - Meyer looked pretty good against the Dolphins, making all his kicks (including a 53-yarder). He’s insurance in case anything should happen to the GOAT Matt Bryant.

That’s it—my third 53-man roster projection, with practice squad. Hopefully these are getting more accurate and less ridiculous, but that’s part of the fun!

What do you think about the Falcons’ depth chart after the first preseason game? Any players I missed that you think have a shot to make the team?