Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to ask one question for each position on the roster. At quarterback, one of the more settled spots on the team, the question concerns a potential future backup.
Is Kurt Benkert going to make this roster?
That’s a question I’ve seen circulating in the comments here, in the mailbag of Matthew Tabeek over at the mothership, and all across social media. I’m not saying it has taken the fanbase by storm or anything, but the positive scouting reports for Benkert, Matt Schaub’s age and cap charge, and the fact that the quarterback position rarely offers much intrigue for Atlanta have all conspired to make this a question that’s legitimately making the rounds among Falcons fans.
It’s a tempting thought because the Falcons have yet to find a long-term, youngish backup for Ryan. Sean Renfree looked like he might be that player for a while, but injuries and poor preseason performances eventually drove him out of that role. For the last two seasons, the role has been manned by Schaub, who has drawn rave reviews for his veteran leadership and ability to help the team pick up the offense. The concern is that Schaub is making quite a bit of money for a backup, depending on your perspective, and last started games in 2015. You have to go back a lot further than that to find a decent season for Schaub—2011 was arguably the last one—and there’s a fear of what might happen if the typically durable Ryan had to miss any time.
As is my custom, though, I’m here to burst bubbles. No, I don’t think Benkert is going to make the roster.
The reasons for that are multi-faceted, but it begins and more or less ends with questions as to Benkert’s readiness. The rookie had an up-and-down career at Virginia in part because of his propensity for risky and sometimes just boneheaded throws, and he’ll need to pick up the offense and erase a lot of bad habits before the Falcons are ready to trust him with real game action. The Falcons still obviously value Schaub’s locker room and sideline role, as well, because they’ve held on to him even as they made business decisions with everyone from Levine Toilolo to Dontari Poe. There’s just no obvious sign that they’re ready to turn the backup reins over to anyone else.
Look for Benkert to make the practice squad for Atlanta if he shows well, and the Falcons will eye having him take over the backup job in 2019, when Schaub is a free agent. It would take injury to Schaub or a truly eye-opening preseason from Benkert to make this a real conversation, however, and Ryan and Schaub are likely locked in as your #1 and #2 for 2018.