Even the final preseason game offers us genuine winners and losers, especially with the axe looming. The Falcons are preparing roster cuts, and we have three players who should feel better about their chances of hanging on to at least a roster spot, and two players and one unit who should feel wary.
RB Malik Williams
In an utterly dismal game for the offense, Williams still managed to help his stock. He finished with fewer yards than Justin Crawford on the same number of carries, but Williams had more productive runs overall, and finished with the game’s lone Atlanta touchdown on an impressive, agile eight yard run.
Williams needed an effort like that to push Crawford for what I assume is a practice squad running back spot. Ito Smith didn’t really play in the fourth preseason game, which tells me he has a roster spot locked up despite a so-so summer, which leaves Crawford and Williams fighting over scraps. Crawford has played more on special teams and reportedly fared better in practices, but this effort has to at least give the coaching staff pause. Williams did everything he could with his final opportunity, and that’s all you can really ask of the fourth preseason game.
DT Garrison Smith
Smith may or may not be practice squad eligible, but that discussion seems moot. He’s been arguably the team’s best run stopping reserve defensive tackle all summer, and he’s added some excellent pass rushing plays to the mix, including a sack against the Dolphins last night. Smith has faced stiff competition from rookie undrafted free agents Justin Zimmer (in particular) and Jon Cunningham (to a lesser extent), but the Falcons can definitely stash those guys on the practice squad. Smith has done enough to make the roster, with Thursday night serving as the cherry on top.
P David Marvin
He didn’t finesse punts inside the five yard line, but former Georgia kicker Marvin showed a booming leg on punts throughout this game. He wound up punting 11 times, and the Falcons got a good enough look at him to make sure he’s at least on their emergency contact list if something happens to Matt Bosher. After Marvin didn’t get any kicking opportunities of note all summer, this was a nice audition for a punting job down the line, which is an unexpected but I expect welcome twist for him.
Honorable mention to Chris Lammons, who has played a few positions and looked pretty good this summer, and to the Emmanuels at linebacker, who had nice games against the Dolphins.
WR Reggie Davis
Davis was going to need a hell of a night to stick on the final roster, and he was going to need a solid night to ensure he was a favorite for the practice squad. After a truly disastrous game, I genuinely have no idea whether he’ll hang around or not.
Depending on your count, Davis dropped either four or five balls against the Dolphins, and also elected to fair catch a punt when there was no one near him. I never want to claim I have insight into a player’s head, but Davis looked spooked, whether he was or not. The effort is likely enough to put him comfortably behind presumptive fifth and sixth receivers Marvin Hall and Russell Gage, and it may lead to the Falcons taking a much harder look at Dontez Byrd and Devin Gray than they might have otherwise.
The reserve offensive lines
Sean Harlow and Jamil Douglas are fighting over one roster spot, at most, and Matt Gono is battling for a practice squad spot. I’d need another viewing to tell you whether anyone acquitted themselves out there, but after watching Kurt Benkert get beat up and watching the running backs average under four yards per carry across the board, I’m willing to say it was not a good night for Atlanta’s depth.
That’s probably why Wes Schweitzer, Ben Garland and Ty Sambrailo were held out, because they’ve already locked up spots. Gono did a ton of damage to his case for a practice squad spot with penalties and poor blocking, and I genuinely don’t if Douglas or Harlow did enough to hang on to a ninth and final interior line spot.
What a mess.
S Ron Parker
There are so many worthy choices here, given how poorly this team played, but I have to highlight Parker. He’s a player I’ve liked for years now, a free agent target for Dan Quinn during his early days in Atlanta, and a veteran with a track record good enough that he should be a lock to be this team’s fourth safety.
Instead, Parker has turned in a mediocre summer after an up-and-down 2017, and with a stagnant safety market and Chris Lammons playing pretty well, I’m genuinely not 100% sure he’s going to stick on the roster. Bad angles and missed tackles marred his game against the Dolphins, and if nothing else, it isn’t a good look for an experienced, once high-end starter at the safety position to struggle against Miami’s deep reserves.
Who are the winners and losers you saw last night?