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Breaking down roster battle implications from Falcons-Steelers

Updates on how Sunday’s performances impacted the roster battles we’ve all been talking about.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As always, it’s time to take stock of the roster battles that went on during Sunday’s Atlanta battle against the Steelers. The landscape has changed a little bit this week.

You’ll note that we’ve removed swing tackle from this list, given that the signing of Austin Pasztor essentially settles it. We’ve also not bothered with linebacker, where Duke Riley is running with the starters and looks like less a presumed starter than an obvious one.

Here’s a closer look at what’s left.


Matt Simms impressed at first, against some of the Steelers’ better defenders, which put him in an excellent position before he cratered in the second half. A lot of that had to do with a line that couldn’t protect him and receivers who couldn’t get open, but Simms made some poor decisions along the way which vividly illustrated why he’s a third quarterback option at best, but if he has practice squad eligibility, he still probably did enough.

He’s still ahead of Alek Torgersen, who got into the game at the very end and wasn’t able to complete passes or avoid throwing a pick. The pressure was on him, too, but he’ll have to be better in his looks next week to beat out Simms.

Running back

Terron Ward wasn’t quite as impressive as last week, but he had a great blitz pickup to go with a touchdown and a solid 4.1 yards per carry average, looking like an improved back for the third consecutive year. Brian Hill, meanwhile, scuffled behind the line, averaged two yards per carry, and continues to struggle to show anything to the coaching staff in game action. Ward’s got to be considered the favorite unless the Falcons have locked Hill in due to his draft status, which seems unlike them.

Wide receiver

Reggie Davis looks to be in the driver’s seat, though past history has taught us to assume nothing with UDFA wide receivers. He beat up on the Steelers in this one, has shown some special teams acumen, and has largely avoided the mistakes that have plagued Marvin Hall, despite the latter’s similarly impressive summer. Anthony Dable is in the mix here as the biggest, most physically impressive player in the group, but I’m still willing to bet it comes down to Davis or Hall.

Tight end

Eric Saubert was supposed to be raw, but he’s been just plain bad thus far for the Falcons in preseason. I don’t think he’ll wind up playing himself off the roster, but the team is likely to bury him deep on the 53 man for 2017. Josh Perkins is the favorite for third tight end if the team is letting Saubert’s preseason impact their evaluation of him, while Darion Griswold lurks quietly in the background.

Right guard

Wes Schweitzer played very well against the Steelers, I thought, the second straight solid week from him. Ben Garland was no slouch either, but I thought Schweitzer stood out more this time. This one looks like a dead heat from the outside at the moment, and as always, we’re predicting it won’t be properly resolved until the end of preseason.


Defense is weirdly settled, with questions like “Will J’Terius Jones or Chris Odom make the roster?” serving as the big asks for that side of the ball. But cornerback isn’t quite as well-sorted, with the standouts thus far being longshots like Akeem King and Jarnor Jones, not presumed favorites C.J. Goodwin and Deji Olatoye. This might come down to the wire, and it’s possible that the Falcons will wind up keeping at least one surprise at the position. My money is on King, a player I like coming out of college who has struggled to stay healthy and relevant to this point.