Wondering who might be suiting up for the Falcons on Thursday night against Washington? Fortunately, Dan Quinn was all too glad to provide a few answers today, with comments rounded up by ace Falcoholic beat reporter Jeanna Thomas.
Let’s get to it.
Who are the Falcons holding out?
There’s a long list.
The first name is Russell Gage, who appears to have avoided serious injury against the Jets but will be brought along slowly. Gage is expected to be one of the team’s gunners and has been one of the most impressive receivers on the roster this summer, showing improved footwork, body control, and route running that could earn him a longer look on offense. He’ll hopefully be ready for Week 1.
Damontae Kazee is the second and most vital name here. Kazee is the expected nickel cornerback and an essential defender given his physicality and ballhawking ability, and the team will likely let him nurse that rib injury so he’s good to go for the game against the Vikings. In the meantime, with Kendall Sheffield also sidelind and being brought back slowly, look for Chris Cooper and Jalen Myrick to get some real work at nickel.
Foye Oluokun is also out. I’m not super worried about that because Oluokun has a clear, defined role and is going to step into it immediately, but obviously the sooner he’s healthy the better. Duke Riley, Bruce Carter, Jermaine Grace and others are fighting for a couple of roster spots behind him.
Finally, right tackle’s going to be down to a handful of options, because Kaleb McGary is on his rehab path and Ty Sambrailo is being held out with a shoulder injury. It’s a major opportunity for Matt Gono, who has drawn praise from the coaching staff for his versatility (he’s played both LT and RT and mixed in at guard) and rookie Jaelin Robinson, who is pushing for a practice squad spot. I’ll be watching closely to see if Gono can turn in the kind of performance that might propel him to a larger role down the line.
Then there’s the usual collection of players like Julio Jones and Deion Jones who weren’t going to play anyways but are still rehabbing. We’ll see them Week 1.
Who are the Falcons getting back?
The headline names here are Ra’Shede Hageman and Taveze Calhoun.
Hageman is a candidate for a rotational job on the defensive line, either as the ninth guy (assuming Takk McKinley, Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Allen Bailey, John Cominsky, Tyeler Davison, Grady Jarrett, and Jack Crawford are locked in) or the tenth and final one if you also add Deadrin Senat. It’s a crowded line, but Hageman’s two game suspension might actually work in his favor, because it allows the Falcons to get two games under their belts and see if they think they need him or not. He’s had his moments this preseason, but again, it’s a very crowded group.
Calhoun is a long shot to make the actual roster but could be in the running for a practice squad spot. The 26-year-old has good length for the position but is facing the prospect of battling for a roster spot where at least five guys (Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Damontae Kazee, Jordan Miller and Kendall Sheffield) are more or less locked in. Add in interesting young players like the recently-signed Jalen Myrick and Calhoun’s going to have to play at a very high level the next two weeks just to get a roster sniff at the end of the month.
We’ll update you if other names pop up as we go.