Who were the most surprising cuts and roster additions, once the dust settled? Our staff weighs in.
In the end, as I’ve noted several times already, it was not a cutdown day loaded with surprises. I was only truly surprised to see Chris Cooper cut and Ricky Ortiz making the roster in the end, though Austin Larkin’s cut was also a little disappointing.
Cooper seemed like he had done enough this summer to make it as the final defensive back, but in the end the Falcons preferred having Blidi Wreh-Wilson at cornerback, a more than defensible choice. It was a bit of a surprise because Cooper got in at nickel cornerback and looked solid enough all preseason to earn a role. Ortiz was just a surprise because the Falcons seemingly gave every indication that they intended to have a fullback-by-committee with guys like Qadree Ollison and Luke Stocker mixing in. We’ll have to see if there are more surprises to come between now and Week 1.
I’m genuinely surprised the Falcons elected to part ways with both Durrant Miles and Austin Larkin. Both young pass rushers have respectable ceilings. And while I’ve learned to take everything the coaching staff says, especially Dan Quinn’s infamous “coach speak,” with a grain of salt, Quinn and his coaches did talk a lot about these guys during training camp and the preseason. So now they’ll try, perhaps unsuccessfully, to stash one or both on the practice squad. And while we’re on the subject of head-scratching roster moves, can we talk about this neverending quarterback controversy? When are the Falcons going to swallow their pride and cut Matt Ryan? I’m sick of watching Matt Schaub’s prime circle the drain. Enough is enough, Comrade. It’s Schaub or bust this season.
I’m still perplexed that the first version of the Falcons 53-man roster includes fullback Ricky Ortiz. After weeks of watching Luke Stocker (and eventually Jaeden Graham) take snaps at fullback, it looked like the team was going to go with the “versatile” option instead. Perhaps he has incredible special teams value, but I just don’t get the need for a fullback at this point. The most surprising keeper for me is Sharrod Neasman. It’s not that I think he’s not a worthy roster addition - I like the guy. However, the team has had a weird love-hate relationship with Neasman over the past few years, even when he’s played well. I’m glad to see him as one of our backups at safety. Good on the staff for finally recognizing he has played well enough to be on the team ... for now.
Ricky Ortiz. He is not only a replacement-level fullback, but the team kept five (!) running backs. I understand Dan Quinn wants a balanced offense but they are just burning up a roster spot on a fullback, considering Qadree Ollison and Luke Stocker can fill in blocking on the rare snaps there is a fullback. I don’t know how the team makes that decision when they could keep Austin Larkin or another young, developmental player. The roster is definitely not set, as every year they will shuffle out one or two players depending on waiver claims or even veteran signings after Week 1. Perhaps Ortiz is the first one out. Of course, things could look better after the team fills out the practice squad.
Either way, yuck.
How RIcky Ortiz made it on the roster, after the team was also forced into keeping five running backs, is beyond me. I completely understand the five RB decision — Brian Hill played his way onto the roster, Qadree Ollison looked good and was just drafted, and Kenjon Barner is your return man. It’s hard enough to keep that many RBs, but the team had to make it work. To add a fullback to that mix is perplexing, however. Ortiz isn’t some great talent at FB where you had to keep him, I actually think the would’ve been fine running Luke Stocker or Jaeden Graham at FB for the handful of plays they’ll run per game out of the I-Formation.
As for most surprising cut, I was surprised that the team parted ways with Austin Larkin. It’s difficult to find pass rushers in this league, and Larkin flashed some nice pass-rushing potential this preseason. I’ll feel better if they can stash him onto the Practice Squad.
There’s no way to get around it: keeping FB Ricky Ortiz on the 53-man roster is puzzling at best. The team seemed to go out of their way to replace him this offseason, signing TE Luke Stocker (who is an adept FB as well) and drafting RB Qadree Ollison (who also has experience at FB). Add to that the plain fact that Ortiz was mediocre at best as a lead blocker in 2018 and you have a decision that makes very little sense. By all accounts, Ortiz is a hard worker and great teammate—but when you’re already keeping 5 RBs and have two other players who can fill in at FB, keeping a middling option in Ortiz is a strange decision. I wouldn’t be shocked if Ortiz is inactive on most gamedays.
With Ortiz taking that final roster spot, the Falcons were forced to say goodbye to other quality candidates like EDGE Austin Larkin and DB Chris Cooper. Both were looking like strong depth options at positions of value, and both got cut in favor of a FB. If you can’t tell that I’m upset, let me make it clear: this was a mistake. FB shouldn’t be a major part of the offense and I’d value a 5th safety/extra CB or a developmental pass rusher over a niche role in the offense.