When the Falcons play the Broncos tonight, you won’t see many familiar faces. You should, however, see the five guys below, who are trying to carve out roles with this team and deserve your time and attention.
QB Kurt Benkert
Benkert could be this team’s long-term backup of the future, if all goes well. He’s a good athlete with a good arm who now has a year of seasoning, having been on the practice squad all last season and serving as the de facto third quarterback. With Matt Schaub nearing the end of his career, Benkert has a real chance to push the backup job this year, and if he looks much better in game action than his up-and-down 2018 preseason chances, it’ll help him build his case. He’ll likely play most of this one.
WR Olamide Zaccheaus
Christian Blake and Devin Gray both have a year under their belt and have impressed as receivers, while Marcus Green is the draft pick and the man with a real shot at a returner gig. Zaccheaus is explosive as hell, has special teams value and could mix into the returner picture himself, and has promise as a receiver. That makes him worth watching as a dark horse for a roster spot alongside Blake, Gray, and Green. Plus his name is great.
T Matt Gono
Technically, rookie Jaelin Robinson is listed as the reserve right tackle with Kaleb McGary sidelined for the near future, and veteran John Wetzel has far more experience. But Gono looked good in spring and summer last year and has managed to hang around all this time, and if push came to shove and someone had to get into game action in place of Sambrailo, it’s far more likely that Gono will be kicking around to do it than Wetzel or Robinson. A plus athlete who moves well and has drawn praise this summer in the early going, Gono could cement a roster spot with some fine efforts in games like these, especially with McGary potentially missing two games or more.
DT Deadrin Senat
It’s hard to predict what Senat’s role will be in 2019, given that the team has so many players capable of playing defensive tackle and Tyeler Davison figuring to be the starter next to Grady Jarrett on run downs. But Senat has a ton of talent and could be angling for a big role in 2020, when most of the players in his way will be free agents. Look for him to mix in a ton tonight, particularly on early downs, and hopefully he can showcase his power.
CB Kendall Sheffield
Jordan Miller and Sheffield have been drawing a lot of attention from the coaching staff, and figure to be big pieces of this team’s cornerback corps going forward. Sheffield has a better chance at real playing time in his first season as the potential fourth cornerback, but he’ll have to prove he’s ready after drawing knocks for being a relatively raw player coming into the draft. If he can flash his excellent speed and better-than-expected coverage skills in this one, he’ll be well on his way to earning that role.
Who else will you be watching?