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Where the Atlanta Falcons stand heading into Week 3 of preseason

The Falcons won’t have their starters out for a whole half, but they’re going to get run against the Jaguars.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We’re on to the critical third preseason game, though it will likely be a little less exciting this year than it has been in years past. That’s because the Falcons will wind up sitting many players this week, either for injury or just to keep them safe and rested, which will in turn decrease the quality of the product on the field.

That’s okay, though, because we’re still going to get some Matt Ryan, Tevin Coleman, Grady Jarrett and the rest of the gang action, and we’re still going to see some strides made in roster and position battles. We’re also going to get a first-hand look at a fun Jaguars team, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Heading into tonight’s game, here’s where the Atlanta Falcons stand, and some of the things you should look for.

Roster Update

The roster is more less intact, but the Falcons did make a couple of moves early in the week.

They let go of fullback hopeful Luke McNitt and wide receiver Taj Williams, replacing them with veteran fullback Jalston Fowler and wide receiver Julian Williams. The Williams signing is unlikely to move the needle for everyone, but with Ricky Ortiz banged up, Fowler is going to get an extended audition for the fullback job this week.


Health is a bit more of an issue this week. The Falcons have announced that Marvin Hall, Deion Jones, and Ricardo Allen are going to be out of this week’s game, and Matt Bryant and Ricky Ortiz could join them, given that both are dealing with some kind of ailments. Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman were already out for reasons that had nothing to do with injury, so this is going to be a depleted Falcons team tonight.

What’s at stake?

Jobs and health, the staples of any preseason game. Health is pretty self-explanatory, but here are the battles to watch and the implications associated with them:

  • Ricky Ortiz is in the driver’s seat for the starting job, but Jalston Fowler is a competent veteran with a nasty streak blocking, and he’s going to get the bulk of the playing time against the Jaguars, if not all of it. If he looks really good, the Falcons may choose to use Week 4 to finalize the position.
  • Kurt Benkert will once again get a long look, and if he can fare well against the Jaguars, he’ll erase some of the concerns his ugly performance against the Chiefs raised. He’s still likely ticketed for the practice squad, while Garrett Grayson is just hanging out.
  • Brandon Fusco will start, Wes Schweitzer will come in after, but this battle is more or less decided. The more interesting ones to watch are between Matt Gono and the other contenders for the swing tackle job, and the possible 10th lineman/practice squad guard battle between Jamil Douglas and Sean Harlow.
  • The returner battle is going to come down to the wire, but there’s an interesting wrinkle this week because Marvin Hall isn’t playing. That leaves Ito Smith, Reggie Davis, Calvin Ridley and Justin Hardy for kickoff returns and some combination of those three for the punt return job. It’s possible Hall will lose ground by sitting on the sidelines, but the way everyone but Ridley has played thus far, it might not actually hurt him.


Don’t expect the Falcons to win this one, banged up as they are. Do expect them to put up a good fight, and do expect them to give reserves plenty of time to continue to prove themselves. It’s a forging fire for these guys, and the Falcons absolutely want to ensure they’re keeping the right young players around when they head into the season.