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Falcons 53-man roster projection: Preseason Week 4

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In our final roster projection of the 2018 preseason, we narrow down some of the last battles on the roster and predict who ends up on the practice squad.

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The end of the 2018 preseason is nearly upon us. All that remains is one last game against the Dolphins before the Falcons are full steam ahead into the regular season. That game could be important for deciding the final one or two spots on the roster, but as far as the major competitions go, everything should already be relatively settled.

Dan Quinn has announced that the Falcons’ starters are not going to play against Miami, which means that we’re going to see a healthy dose of Matt Schaub and Kurt Benkert on Thursday. However, the bulk of the roster is pretty much set at this point, and so I feel confident enough to make my final roster prediction. Of course, I’ll probably be totally wrong, but that’s all part of the fun.

If you’d like to see how this roster projection has changed throughout the offseason, you can find the previous versions below:

There are going to be a few changes based upon what we saw in the Jaguars game. Take a closer look at how I expect the Falcons’ roster (and practice squad!) to shake out below.


OFFENSE - 25

QB - 2

QB Matt Ryan
QB Matt Schaub

Matt Ryan has looked sharp through three preseason games, even with Julio Jones off the field. He’s an obvious candidate for a bounce-back season in 2018. Schaub has proven that he deserves to be the back-up QB this season by once again demonstrating his comfort and experience in the scheme. He’s not a top-flight QB2, but he’s a reasonably reliable one.

RB - 3

RB Devonta Freeman
RB Tevin Coleman
RB Ito Smith

The time has come to axe the fourth RB. The team is clearly enamored with Justin Crawford, but he simply hasn’t done much—and while Malik Williams has been impressive, he remains behind Crawford on the depth chart. As of now, the Falcons seem prepared to go into the season with Freeman, Coleman, and Ito Smith as their primary runners.

FB - 1

FB Ricky Ortiz

Jalston Fowler could still make a case for the job in the final preseason game, but Ortiz played all the snaps with the starters against Jacksonville. I think it will be difficult for Fowler to overtake him at this point, simply because there isn’t much time left to prove his case. Ortiz has also looked good in all aspects: run blocking, pass protection, and receiving ability. He should be an upgrade over Derrick Coleman.

TE - 3

TE Austin Hooper
TE Eric Saubert
TE Logan Paulsen

The Falcons have a nice little trio of TEs. Austin Hooper had a good game against Kansas City before having a bad drop against the Jaguars, but he’s still a solid TE1. Eric Saubert has tons of untapped potential as a match-up weapon. Logan Paulsen appears to be the Levine Toilolo replacement in every sense, as he’s a good blocker that can be depended on to catch an occasional pass.

WR - 6

WR Julio Jones
WR Mohamed Sanu
WR Calvin Ridley
WR Marvin Hall
WR Justin Hardy
WR Russell Gage

No change in the WR group after three preseason games, and I don’t believe there will be going forward. Julio, Sanu, and Ridley are entrenched as the top three options. Marvin Hall appears to be a key factor on special teams and has been involved with the first team offense all preseason. Hardy hasn’t gotten many snaps, but his roster spot is unlikely to be in jeopardy. Russell Gage was drafted for his special teams ability, but he’s shown over the last two preseason games that he can contribute on offense, too.

OL - 10

LT Jake Matthews
LG Andy Levitre
C Alex Mack
RG Brandon Fusco
RT Ryan Schraeder

C/G Ben Garland
C/G Wes Schweitzer
G Sean Harlow
T Ty Sambrailo
T Matt Gono

Good offensive line players are at an absolute premium right now in the NFL, which is why the Falcons hold on to the talent they’ve acquired—even if it means keeping an extra guy on the roster. The starting five should be one of the most well-rounded units in the league, and Atlanta has plenty of depth behind them.

Interestingly, we saw last year’s starting RG Wes Schweitzer take quite a few snaps at center on Saturday—and look pretty serviceable. Matt Gono is perhaps the most interesting of the depth pieces, and I don’t believe the team can risk stashing him on the practice squad. If anyone is at risk of getting cut, it’s Sean Harlow—he still hasn’t cracked the second string line-up, and could be the first to go if injuries should strike at another position.


DEFENSE - 25

EDGE - 5

EDGE Vic Beasley
EDGE Takkarist McKinley
EDGE Brooks Reed
EDGE Derrick Shelby
EDGE J.T. Jones

The EDGE group hasn’t been extremely productive this preseason, but we know they’re talented enough to be an above-average group in 2018. Beasley, Takk, and Reed are a solid three man rotation, while Derrick Shelby provides excellent run stuffing ability. J.T. Jones continues to get the lion’s share of snaps at EDGE—less at SLB as of late—while chief competitor Anthony Winbush has been splitting time with Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. To me, I think that means that Jones is the most likely to win the fifth EDGE spot.

DT - 4

DT Grady Jarrett
DT Jack Crawford
DT Deadrin Senat
DT Terrell McClain

What I once thought was a potential weakness of this team actually looks like it could end up being a strength. We all know Grady Jarrett is a top-tier DT, but the rest of this group was pretty much a question mark. Jack Crawford posted a sack against Andrew Norwell and generally looked quite disruptive against the Jaguars. Deadrin Senat has been the most impressive of all the DTs against the run. Terrell McClain looks like a solid veteran contributor that can rotate at both spots. I might actually end up being more comfortable with this group than the EDGE group when it’s all said and done.

LB - 6

LB Deion Jones
LB De’Vondre Campbell
LB Duke Riley
LB Foye Oluokun
LB Kemal Ishmael
LB Jonathan Celestin

The top two LBs are very good, but then we get into the decision between Duke Riley and Foye Oluokun. If it was me, I’d start Oluokun—he already looks more instinctual and comfortable as a rookie than Riley does as a sophomore. It was tough to decide who to give the final roster spot on defense to, but it really seems like Jonathan Celestin has earned it. His versatility and positive playmaking through three straight preseason games has convinced me. A 6th LB is simply more valuable for special teams purposes than a 5th DT.

CB - 6

CB Desmond Trufant
CB Robert Alford
CB Brian Poole
CB Isaiah Oliver
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB Justin Bethel

Boy, does the Falcons secondary look especially stacked with Damontae Kazee showing out. Atlanta’s top-3 CBs are pretty much set, but it seems like the rookie Isaiah Oliver will need more time than we initially thought before he sees the field. That’s fine—he’s clearly talented and physically gifted—and the Falcons aren’t in any rush to get him out there. Blidi Wreh-Wilson has continued to look like a starting-caliber option, which is excellent to have as depth. Justin Bethel is a bad CB, but a fantastic special teams player—that punt he downed at the 2-yard line was a phenomenal play, and that’s why he’s on this team.

S - 4

SS Keanu Neal
FS Ricardo Allen

S Damontae Kazee
S Ron Parker

Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen form one of the better safety duos in the NFL. There’s also this other guy named Kazee, who I just mentioned with the CBs, but he’s worth mentioning again. Kazee has been the most impressive Falcons player—period—during the preseason. He’s going to demand some sort of role, and I expect we’ll see him on the field as one of Atlanta’s primary nickel options. Ron Parker hasn’t done much through the first three preseason games, but he’s dependable veteran depth and that’s always nice to have.


SPECIAL TEAMS - 3

K Matt Bryant
P Matt Bosher
LS Josh Harris

Despite the Falcons signing K Giorgio Tavecchio, Matt Bryant isn’t likely to go anywhere. The ageless wonder dealt with some sort of injury in camp, but was able to kick just fine against the Jaguars. Matt Bosher has looked like one of the best punters in the league this preseason. Josh Harris, as always, does his job and hustles on coverage units. Gotta respect that man.


PRACTICE SQUAD - 11

TE Alex Gray - NFL International Player Exemption. We didn’t see Alex Gray do much of anything this preseason, but there’s a chance he could compete for some sort of role in 2019.

C/G Jamil Douglas - If Douglas is eligible for the practice squad (I believe he is, but it’s hard to be sure), he’s been the best of the interior options outside of Schweitzer and Garland. He’s experienced and has looked good at both center and guard this offseason.

CB Ryan Neal - Talk about a player that came out of nowhere. There had been no impressive UDFA CBs for the Falcons through the first two games, and then Ryan Neal burst onto the scene. He showcased solid coverage and excellent open-field tackling. He’s worth keeping around as injury insurance and as a developmental piece.

EDGE Anthony Winbush - It doesn’t appear that Winbush was able to do quite enough to beat out J.T. Jones for the final roster spot, but the Falcons will keep him close by on the practice squad. Winbush has potential as a pass rusher/SLB, somewhat similar to De’Vondre Campbell.

DT Justin Zimmer - Zimmer just barely missed out on the final roster spot to Jonathan Celestin, mostly due to positional value. Although he had a quiet start to the preseason, Zimmer showed off his impressive athletic ability against KC and Jacksonville. His elite traits are worth developing.

DT Jon Cunningham - Although it’d be a little unusual to keep two DTs on the practice squad, I believe Cunningham has earned his place here. He’s been a force against the run—although he strangely didn’t see the field at all against the Jaguars. Cunningham could be the first man up as help for the run defense in case of an injury.

QB Kurt Benkert - Benkert started off strong and finished with a thud. Unless he shows out against the Dolphins on Thursday, he’s probably safe to stash on the practice squad this year. His highs are very exciting, but it’s clear he needs more development before he’s a dependable back-up.

RB Malik Williams - The team is probably going to end up giving this spot to Justin Crawford, but they’d be wrong to do so in my opinion. Malik Williams has looked more decisive and has been more productive. Sure, he’s not quite the athlete Crawford is, but that’s not the most important thing for a RB.

S Tyson Graham - The only other UDFA DB that has made any sort of positive plays, Tyson Graham wins this spot by default. It’s possible Atlanta could bring in a veteran or another camp cut here, but Graham does have the size and versatility that Quinn likes from his DBs.

TE Jaeden Graham - None of the UDFA TEs for the Falcons has done much, but Jaeden Graham appeared to be utilized the most. I expect Atlanta to bring in a cut TE that they like to take this spot, but Jaeden Graham does have a pretty great name.

WR Reggie Davis - Talk about a resurgence. Reggie Davis had a slow start to the preseason where he was outclassed by the likes of Devin Gray and Dontez Byrd, but seems to have surpassed them in the eyes of the team. Davis took a lot of first team snaps in Marvin Hall’s absence, and made quite a few plays on special teams. It may still come down to the final preseason game, but Davis has made a strong case to retain his practice squad spot.


There weren’t too many differences in the roster construction in this edition, but this should end up being pretty close to the “real” final 53-man roster that we’ll see after Thursday’s game. All the starting jobs seem to be locked up, except perhaps for FB—where Ortiz and Fowler will likely continue their battle against the Dolphins. It’s still somewhat unclear what the Falcons will do with their final roster spot on defense—I could easily see it going to Celestin or Zimmer, depending on how the Falcons feel about both positions.

What are your thoughts on the final 53-man roster projection? Any players or spots that you’d change? Who are some UDFAs or potential camp cuts from other teams that you’d like to see the Falcons go after?