Another week, another list of young players who either excelled or need to excel, and deserve the shot to do so. Let’s get at this one ahead of the team’s game against perhaps the most dysfunctional franchise in football.
QB Danny Etling
He didn’t even play against the Jets and I’m including him here. Why?
Simply put, the Falcons like to keep a third quarterback on the practice squad, and since there’s virtually no way it’s going to be Matt Simms, we may as well find out if Etling’s up to the task. Giving him a ton of snaps the next two weeks would help preserve Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub and let the Falcons determine whether they need to go add another QB or if Etling can serve as the developmental option and a potential future competitor for Kurt Benkert.
WR Devin Gray
Gray had one big game a year ago and parlayed that into a 2018 practice squad spot. For the first time this summer that I can remember, Gray fared better on the field than much-hyped second year UDFA, snagging three catches for 45 yards. Gray, Blake, and Olamide Zaccheaus are the three guys duking it out over what figures to be one spot as far as I’m concerned, and all three need chances to prove themselves in the coming weeks.
TE Jaeden Graham
I won’t dwell on Graham, who I praised yesterday in a separate article, except to say that he deserves a longer look and scrutiny as a blocker to see if he’s up to serving as the team’s third tight end.
DT Deadrin Senat
Senat has been all but invisible up to this point in the offseason, which has concerned me. He was a third round pick just a year ago and came to the Falcons with an intriguing blend of athleticism and strength, and had he not made this veteran-heavy defensive line rotation the Falcons likely would’ve lost him entirely. That would be bad news when you consider the increasingly cap-strapped Falcons will go into 2020 with just Grady Jarrett under contract as a proven option.
That’s why it was nice to see Senat throwing his weigh around against the Jets. Ideally, he’d soak up a ton of snaps the next two weeks, make an impact, and head into the year with a small but defined role he can parlay into a major one next season.
CB/S Chris Cooper
Pressed into action at nickel cornerback with Damontae Kazee and Kendall Sheffield out, Cooper looked pretty good. A little positional versatility and a lot of athleticism can only help a guy like that make the roster, and while Cooper’s been quieter than expected to this point, he still should have a real shot to serve as Ricardo Allen’s backup and a deep reserve at cornerback. Again, he just needs more opportunities.
Who else is on your list?