These five players are pushing hard for roster spots, and you’ll want to monitor their performance in this otherwise grueling preseason game with great interest.
LB Jonathan Celestin
The Falcons seem to have a knack for uncovering quality Minnesota linebacker. Celestin has been one of the stars of the preseason, twice leading the team in tackles while tallying a half sack and pitching in significantly on special teams. He’s a good athlete and a very sound tackler who has put himself in an excellent position to make the team by demonstrating that teams value.
For Celestin, like so many others, it’ll be a numbers game. If he plays well against the Dolphins, the Falcons will almost certainly at least add him to the practice squad. If they’re going to put him on the roster, though, it’ll either mean keeping six linebackers or cutting veteran Kemal Ishmael to make room for him. Either way, not an easy call for the team to make, but Celestin has done everything he possibly can to show he belongs.
WR Marvin Hall
Justin Hardy is an essential blocker and a reliable set of hands in the red zone, so he should make the team. The Falcons clearly love Russell Gage’s speed and special teams value and have played around with the idea of him playing cornerback down the line, and I’d be stunned if they didn’t keep. That leaves (potentially) one roster spot at receiver, and Marvin Hall remains the strongest candidate to fill it.
Hall’s had moments as a receiver all summer, drawing praise from Matt Ryan along the way. He’s shown he can be an asset on returns, as well, and the team has given him some run as a gunner with decidedly mixed results. With Reggie Davis, Dontez Byrd, and Devin Gray all enjoying flashes but starting from behind Hall, I still think he makes it. He may need to close out the preseason on a strong note to ensure he has a spot, however.
DT Justin Zimmer
We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about Zimmer pre-preseason, which was probably a mistake. He’s flown under the radar until the last couple of weeks, but Zimmer’s an interesting undrafted free agent who has shown as much as a pass rusher as any interior defensive lineman in preseason. That was particularly true against Jacksonville, where Zimmer was relentless and came away with 1.5 sacks for his efforts.
The Falcons have a four man rotation at defensive tackle established, but they lack proven depth beyond that. If they want to nurture a young player with some pass rushing upside with Jack Crawford’s contract up after 2019 and Terrell McClain on a one year deal, Zimmer would seem to fit the bill.
Honorable mention to Garrison Smith, who has shown plenty as a run stopper himself. The Falcons will likely choose to keep one of those players on the active roster and stash the other on the practice squad.
G Sean Harlow
He’s competing with journeyman center/guard Jamil Douglas for one spot on the roster, if the Falcons even have one available. Harlow was a fourth rounder just a year ago and has had a strong summer, but the Falcons need to determine whether they want to keep nine or even ten offensive linemen on the roster or if they want those spots to go elsewhere.
Harlow can make the strongest possible case by doing good things with his snaps in Game 4, and I’d expect him to play most of the game. If he can’t, and Douglas plays well, the Falcons may be losing their second draft pick from the 2017 class.
S/CB Chris Lammons
Ryan Neal has been getting plenty of run since he joined the Falcons, but I’m still a big fan of Lammons, who has spent time as both a safety and a nickel cornerback for Atlanta this summer. Lammons is a physical player with some genuine upside in coverage, and while it might be a bit of a long shot for him to join this team as a fifth safety, I’m hopeful he’ll hang on to a roster spot. He has the talent to do more, but given the strength of the safety position, he has to be viewed as the least likely player on this list to actually make the roster.
Hit me with your favorite roster hopefuls, and what you think their chances are of making the team.