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One final Falcons 53 man roster prediction with cuts looming today

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Who is in and who is out in the very first 53 man roster for 2019?

NFL: AUG 22 Preseason - Redskins at Falcons

Rosters evolve. A year ago, the Falcons surprisingly kept Richard Jarvis as one of their final players, but he didn’t get much of a chance to stick around. So it will go this year as well, but the first 53 man roster still have that glossy sheen because it comes after the team has determined at least the rough contours of its plan for 2019.

Let’s get one more in before the rest of the cuts come crashing down on us. If you’re looking for Kevin Knight’s, given that he’s been our projector-in-chief this summer, he rounded them up in a tweet thread here.

OFFENSE - 25

QB - 2

Matt Ryan
Matt Schaub

Easy.

RB - 5

Devonta Freeman
Ito Smith
Brian Hill
Qadree Ollison
Kenjon Barner

It’s a bit surprising to see the team keep five running backs in a league where it’s no longer the most valued position going. The Falcons view Free as their guy, and if he’s healthy he and Ito Smith figure to soak up most of the carries and targets in this offense. Hill and Ollison figure to mix in on special teams and potentially at fullback at time, with Hill likely taking on the scraps that Free and Smith leave behind and Ollison largely just developing unless injury strikes. Barner is here for the very ocasional carry and to serve as the team’s kickoff returner, if not kickoff and punt returner.

TE - 3

Austin Hooper
Luke Stocker
Jaeden Graham

Cheated a bit on this one, given that Paulse and Duarte are already gone, but this is what I would have projected based on the Falcons making it incredibly obvious. Hooper is the unquestioned starter and one of the 10-12 best tight ends in the NFL today, with Stocker serving as a versatile blocker with some fullback experience, and Graham the interesting young tight end with the athleticism to play a role as a receiver and the upside to mix in as a blocker and fullback himself. The Falcons will likely wind up rolling out 3-4 guys to serve as a nominal fullback this year, and Graham has a strong chance to push for the #2 tight end job next year.

WR - 6

Julio Jones
Calvin Ridley
Mohamed Sanu
Russell Gage
Justin Hardy
Olamide Zaccheaus

The first five spots here are easy. There’s a slim possibility the Falcons could elect to move on from Hardy, but his value as a sticky-handed third down and red zone option and his superior blocking should keep him around. That leaves one open spot, and that competition truly has looked open this year.

I know Christian Blake has earned all the buzz and Marcus Green was the draft pick, but I’m going with Olamide Zaccheaus in the end. He looked good on Thursday against the Jaguars, as he has most of the preseason, and he looms as a potential option at returner if Barner falters or goes down. He may be an inactive to start the year, but Zaccheaus should develop into someone the Falcons want to keep around.

OL - 9

LT Jake Matthews
LG Jamon Brown
C Alex Mack
RG Chris Lindstrom
OT Kaleb McGary

G James Carpenter
C/G Wes Schweitzer
OT Ty Sambrailo
OT Matt Gono

The only potential surprise here would be another lineman being kept, but that would require a surprise cut elsewhere. The reality is that this group has separated itself from everyone else consistently wit hthe exception of Sambrailo, who the team still likes and figures to keep around. Carpenter or Brown will back up left guard, Schweitzer will back up right guard and center, and Gono has done enough to at least back up one of the tackle spots. It’s a good, athletic group of guys.

DEFENSE - 25

DE - 6

Vic Beasley
Takkarist McKinley
Adrian Clayborn
Allen Bailey
John Cominsky
Austin Larkin

Beasley and McKinley are locked in as the de facto starters. Clayborn will play a valuable reserve role, while Bailey should get plenty of snaps on early downs and figures to be one of the team’s moer effective defensive linemen when it comes to stopping the run. Cominsky is the hyper-athletic developmental option who figures to get time both inside and outside and Larkin pushed his way onto this roster with consistently terrific play this summer. This gives the Falcons real depth.

DT - 4

Grady Jarrett
Jack Crawford
Tyeler Davison
Deadrin Senat

Clayborn, Allen and Cominsky will mix in here, giving the team better depth than this grouping would suggest. Jarrett is a stud, Crawford is a very useful pass rusher, Davison is a consistently stout run stopper, and Senat could still develop into something special. This defensive line genuinely looks stronger than it has in a while, whether or not the Falcons actually do keep Larkin.

LB - 5

Deion Jones
De’Vondre Campbell
Foyesade Oluokun
Jermaine Grace
Duke Riley

Many have been putting Bruce Carter here all summer, but as much as I like Carter, I don’t think he’s a lock to make it, much less a strong bet to beat out Grace and Riley. Both of those players are young, athletic, and have real special teams value, and this feels like a good group of linebackers who fit Dan Quinn’s preferred set of traits. Oluokun is the obvious third linebacker after a strong 2018, but Grace and Riley should find their way onto the field.

CB - 5

Desmond Trufant
Isaiah Oliver
Damontae Kazee
Kendall Sheffield
Jordan Miller

They should keep Blidi Wreh-Wilson, but I have a sneaking feeling they’ll prioritize adding a guy like Larkin who can be useful this year and step into a larger role next year when a lot of contracts are expiring. If they don’t keep BWW, Sheffield and Miller still provide intriguing young depth, and Chris Cooper at safety can play nickel in a pinch, giving them some flexibility.

S - 5

SS Keanu Neal
FS Ricardo Allen

S Sharrod Neasman
S Kemal Ishmael
S/CB Chris Cooper

This doesn’t feel difficult on paper. Neasman was good in starting action last year and plays teams, Ishmael is a force against the run and is perhaps the team’s most important non-specialist special teamer, and Cooper had a solid summer at safety and cornerback, making him a good de facto tenth defensive back. The Falcons could use three safeties with Neal and Allen coming off of injuries, too.

SPECIAL TEAMS - 3

K Matt Bryant
P Matt Bosher
LS Josh Harris

Tavecchio got his shot and unfortunately couldn’t make the most of it. The Falcons got itchy and appear set to go with their legendary kicker since 2009 again in 2019, with the team negotiating a contract by all indications as I write this. Any other result would be an upset.

PRACTICE SQUAD - 10

QB Danny Etling

RB Tony Brooks-James

WR Christian Blake

TE Alex Gray

C Chandler Miller

DE Durrant Miles

DT Justin Zimmer

LB Del’Shawn Phillips

CB Jayson Stanley

K Matthew Wright

Etling did enough in that last preseason game to stick around, Brooks-James was legitimately impressive at times, Blake is a coaching staff favorite who did enough to earn another year to develop, and Gray is turning into a quality blocker and is a necessary hold with the Falcons only keeping three tight ends. Miller did enough to earn a look as a developmental center.

Zimmer has shown flashes of real promise as a pass rusher and should push harder for a role next year, Phillips was good-to-great all summer, and Stanley has intriguing tools and potentially a lot of special teams value. Wright is a kicker with a good leg and pretty good results in Pittsburgh, and the Falcons’ skittishness about Matt Bryant’s injury potential makes a practice squad kicker a fairly strong bet. It just may not be Wright.

As is custom, the Falcons may pull an outside player or two into the mix that I haven’t accounted for yet, but this feels like a strong projection based on what we’ve seen in August.