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Falcons 53-man roster projection: Preseason Week 3

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After the Falcons’ second preseason game, who has made their case for a spot on the 53-man roster and practice squad?

Atlanta Falcons v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Another week, another preseason game down. We’re only three weeks away from regular season football now, and the roster is becoming clearer with every performance. Some of the more interesting position battles are finally beginning to take their final forms, and players are beginning to stand out from their peers.

Sunday’s game was a quite the mixed bag, with an exhilarating first half followed by an atrocious second half. Special teams play was downright awful at times, but several players made their cases to make the final roster or the practice squad. Let’s take a look at how things have changed after the conclusion of the second preseason game.

Changes from my most recent prediction are denoted with italics. You can read the previous iterations of my roster projections here: post-draft, pre-camp, preseason Week 2.


OFFENSE - 25

QB - 2

QB Matt Ryan
QB Matt Schaub

No change here once again, particularly after Matt Simms played pretty poorly against the Steelers reserves in extended time. Ryan is a top-5 NFL QB and looks to be just as comfortable in the offense as he was in 2016. Schaub is a dependable and experienced back-up with plenty of time in the scheme.

RB - 4

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

No change here from last week. Freeman and Coleman continue to form one of the best 1-2 tandems in the NFL. Ward appears to be the clear #3 RB at this point, with a similar running style to Freeman. Hill has been tough to evaluate with the poor blocking he’s received, but it doesn’t appear that he’s much of a threat to Ward. The team can’t risk cutting Hill, as it’s very likely some other team would scoop him up. Even if he isn’t ready, they’ll have to carry him on the roster.

FB - 1

FB Derrick Coleman

Well, I’m finally getting off the Renew bandwagon. The team appears unwilling to give Renew any snaps with the first team, and unless that changes against the Cardinals this week, Coleman appears set to take control of the FB position in 2017. Neither of them is going to be Patrick DiMarco, but hopefully they can provide good blocking and occasional receiving ability for the Falcons.

WR - 6

WR Julio Jones
WR Mohamed Sanu
WR Taylor Gabriel
WR Justin Hardy
WR Andre Roberts
WR Reggie Davis

The battle for the #6 receiver spot is perhaps the most exciting of any this preseason. With slots 1-5 virtually locked up, UDFAs Reggie Davis and Marvin Hall are in a fierce competition with veteran Nick Williams to seize the final WR position. Hall had the advantage in Week 1, but Davis got the edge in Week 2. Williams is still hanging around, and has the grit necessary to make a few clutch catches a game. For now it’s Davis, but these three are very close.

TE - 3

TE Austin Hooper
TE Levine Toilolo
TE Eric Saubert

With the Falcons needing to keep 4 RBs, that pretty much eliminates the ability for the team to keep 4 TEs. They’re in a bit of a precarious position here, with the two starters settled in Hooper and Toilolo, but the primary back-up a very raw and, thus far, completely unready Eric Saubert. Cutting him would be a big risk, so the team might have to bank on him improving enough to be serviceable as the year goes on.

OL - 9

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

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

Schweitzer performed quite well against the formidable Steelers front-7, and I still believe he’s the favorite to be the Week 1 starter at RG. The rest of the starting offensive line is in excellent condition, and the unit looked impressive paving the way for Terron Ward on the Falcons’ first series. Hopefully, the line can continue to be a strength in 2017.

The Falcons greatly bolstered their depth with the addition of Austin Pasztor, who immediately steps in as the swing tackle. He should prove to be a big upgrade over the other options on the roster. Garland and Harlow will be the two interior back-ups, and the hope is that Harlow can get the “Schweitzer” treatment (aka riding the inactive list for his rookie season). With only 3 TEs, the team could elect to do something a little interesting, keeping D.J. Tialavea as an extra offensive lineman and, perhaps, blocking TE in a pinch.


DEFENSE - 25

EDGE - 3

EDGE Vic Beasley
EDGE Takkarist McKinley
EDGE Brooks Reed

The EDGE group comes back down to three players, due to some shuffling elsewhere on the roster. Beasley looks to be taking more snaps at SAM in the base, which is interesting. McKinley made his debut against the Steelers, and looked disruptive and athletic. Reed is simply a solid option that can play at either end spot when needed.

DE/DT - 4

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

This group of four players has stayed the same throughout training camp, and that isn’t going to change now. Clayborn will play end on base downs, kicking inside in the nickel. Crawford got his first snaps against the Steelers and looked big and physical. Shelby has started to look more like his former self coming off an Achilles injury. Upshaw has been disruptive lining up all along the defensive line, making him a valuable rotational piece.

DT - 3

DT Grady Jarrett
DT Dontari Poe
DT Ra’shede Hageman

After watching the second preseason game, an argument could be made that this is the most talented group on the roster. Grady Jarrett looks like a monster, and could break out in a big way this season. Poe is getting more comfortable in the defense and looks quite formidable against the run and pass. Hageman has flashed throughout the preseason, and will be counted upon to contribute in the rotation.

LB - 6

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

No changes here this week, as these players continued to make their cases for the roster. Jones and Campbell have impressed throughout the preseason. Riley made some solid stops when playing with the second team, and should push for playing time early. Reynolds and Ishmael are solid depth pieces that can contribute on special teams. Grace has continued to stand out in a crowded LB depth chart.

CB - 5

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

The Falcons seem likely to keep only 5 CBs going into the season with the knowledge that Jalen Collins will return from suspension after Week 11. Trufant, Alford, and Poole form a terrific starting CB group. Goodwin is still a bit rough around the edges, but he’s improving and has the size Quinn covets. Olatoye played well against dynamic receiver Martavis Bryant, making his case for the final CB spot on the roster.

SS - 2

SS Keanu Neal
SS Sharrod Neasman

This position looks to be all locked up, though UDFA Quincy Mauger did have a nice interception on Sunday. Keanu Neal is among the best young SS in the league, and should continue to grow in his second season. Neasman has been a solid reserve, playing well so far throughout the preseason.

FS - 2

FS Ricardo Allen
FS Damontae Kazee

There might be a bit more intrigue at FS after Kazee’s ankle injury on Sunday. Still, Ricardo Allen appears to have the starting spot essentially under control. Kazee looked impressive in limited action against the Steelers, making an excellent open field tackle and flying to the ball. If he’s healthy, he’ll get a chance to contribute early on.


SPECIAL TEAMS - 3

K Matt Bryant
P Matt Bosher
LS Josh Harris

While special teams wasn’t particularly inspiring against the Steelers, these three guys certainly weren’t the problem. Bryant is the ageless wonder at K, and may kick into eternity for all we know. Bosher is still the leading candidate to be the fifth safety, and is also a pretty good punter. Harris is a solid LS that never gets his name called, which is a good thing.


PRACTICE SQUAD - 10

  • QB Alek Torgersen - Torgersen has barely gotten any playing time, but looked impressive and decisive in limited snaps. Simms is no longer eligible for the practice squad, so Torgersen is it unless they bring in someone else.
  • C/G Cornelius Edison - Edison has been one of the few solid players in the reserve OL groups. He has starting experience and should stick around.
  • CB Jarnor Jones - Jones has been impressive against reserve players and has the measurables Quinn wants from his CBs.
  • EDGE J’Terius Jones - Jones gets pushed off the active roster due to some shuffling, but he’s been very effective in preseason and deserves this spot.
  • DT Taniela Tupou - Tupou looked very strong and disruptive against the Steelers. He’s been quietly making his case, and Sunday’s performance pushed him over the edge.
  • FB Tyler Renew - Renew loses out to the veteran, but is kept around to be groomed for next season. I think he’s the future at FB for this team, just maybe not in 2017.
  • LB Josh Keyes - Keyes is a good special teamer and decent reserve LB with good athletic traits. Will be the first guy to get a call up if injuries strike.
  • S Quincy Mauger - Mauger further cemented his case to make the practice squad with an interception from a scrambling Josh Dobbs. To win this spot, you have to stand out, and so far Mauger has.
  • TE Josh Perkins - Perkins gets pushed off the roster due to needing to keep Hill and Saubert. He’ll stay with the team and continue to develop on the practice squad.
  • WR Marvin Hall - This battle is going to come down to the wire, but the good news is that the second place player is likely to get a practice squad spot. Hall probably would be on the roster if he hadn’t dropped that TD, but he’s still been very good this preseason.

What do you think of this roster and practice squad combination? Who are some players you’d place differently? Anyone you’re watching closely in the next two games?