Like most positions on the Falcons’ roster today, linebacker is loaded with top-flight starters and quality depth. Also like most positions, the depth at linebacker isn’t necessarily around for the long haul.
LaRoy Reynolds and Kemal Ishmael are both on one year deals, and while both are very useful special teamers and solid defenders, chances are decent that not both will return. That’s where someone like Jermaine Grace could come in, particularly after glowing reports out of camp.
Grace’s scouting reports will sound familiar to anyone who heard doubts about Deion Jones and Duke Riley. He’s listed anywhere between 5’11-6’1” and 209-225 pounds, with quality athleticism, good technique, and special teams experience in college, all of which would make him enticing to Dan Quinn’s Falcons. The reason he’s an especially good fit for Quinn’s Falcons is that the chief doubts about him concern his size and weight, and that didn’t scare the team away from Deion Jones (6’2”, 220 pounds a year ago) or Duke Riley (6’1”, 230 pounds). He wouldn’t need to add more than ten pounds or so to fit right in with everyone except De’Vondre Campbell, who is listed at about 6’3” and 240 pounds.
The problem for Grace is that this team looks pretty stacked at the moment, with Reynolds and Ishmael having plenty of value, and Jones, Riley, and Campbell essentially locked in to starter’s snaps. Unless the team wants to carry a sixth linebacker, a player that may well be inactive on a regular basis, Grace has to be considered a little bit of a longshot to make the team outright.
So. Like most of the players in this running series, Grace’s upside for 2017 is being the last guy off the bench at linebacker or a member of the practice squad, but it’s not hard to see opportunity and talent converging to create a bigger opportunity for him in 2018. He just needs to stick around, and the early reports are encouraging in that regard. For now, I’d anticipate Grace will hit the practice squad.