We’re less than a week away from roster cuts, with the team ultimately needing to trim 25 players off the roster, with 16 players either joining anew or re-joining the team’s expanded practice squad. That means plenty of tough decisions are ahead, but the lack of preseason games and the more scattered nature of training camp reports means we’re a bit more in the dark than usual on what those decisions will be.
For this morning, let’s see what indications we have gotten from the team’s recent workouts and most glowing endorsements, and what it might mean for the way they’ll build their roster in 2020. These are educated guesses, in many instances, so as always we welcome yours as well.
Kurt Benkert and Matt Schaub may both be safe
There are many ways to read the Sunday workouts for three quarterbacks the Falcons might consider signing down the line. You might think the team is in search of a practice squad candidate, which would mean they don’t really love Benkert. You might think they’re in search of a practice squad candidate, period, because they’re keeping Benkert and Matt Schaub is going to spend a year as an analyst.
My theory is this: With a couple of additional roster spots, Schaub’s value as a veteran leader and offensive mind, and Benkert’s considerable promise as a backup, they’re planning to keep both. That would mean the workout was for a potential practice squad quarterback in addition to the three guys they’ll be keeping, or updating the emergency contact list.
Either way, I think the team would be loathe to lose Benkert but have long been attached at the (increasingly brittle) hip with Schaub. I’d not be surprised if this is the plan.
Brian Hill’s going to take on a bigger role
The Brian HIll hype comes around every summer and doesn’t translate to a whole lot most years. This might be a little different.
Hill has once again been a standout in camp, per several observers, and is the most logical and proven early down option for those times when Todd Gurley is dealing with a flare-up or just being rested by a sure-to-be-cautious-early-on Falcons coaching staff. He’s never quite turned his promise into performances that turn your head, but with Ito Smith figuring to settle into the change of pace back and Qadree Ollison once again looming as a short yardage option, Hill is the player most likely to be Gurley when Gurley can’t Gurley. I’d look for him to have his best season yet, even if he’ll still hardly be a full-time player.
Dan Quinn said Brian Hill has really been a standout at camp. Said Ito Smith has had a good couple days.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) August 28, 2020
Matt Hennessy is the left guard, but versatility rules on the OL
We won’t spend a lot of time on this, because we’ve already had it drilled into our heads that this is the likeliest outcome. Hennessy locking down left guard does mean he’s not slotting in as the backup center, which will require the team to shuffle things up on the line a bit.
Matt Gono seems likely to be a reserve tackle, but he can als play guard if called upon. Justin McCray can technically play any position on the line but seems likely to be the backup center. James Carpenter will be the team’s reserve guard option, assuming they don’t simply jettison him for hometown hero Sean Harlow. I would assume the final man on the line will be John Wetzel, who can also play a bunch of positions, both because experience is critical this year and versatility figures to matter more than ever for teams who don’t know who they’ll lose and for how long if COVID-19 takes hold in the NFL.
The specialists are locked in
We covered this recently, too, but Younghoe Koo and Sterling Hofrichter have their jobs sewn up at the moment. The Falcons seem likely to add a practice squad punter who can handle kickoffs in a pinch, but not a true kicker, which suggests they think Hofrichter can fill in should something happen to Koo or that there’s a fair number of street free agents out there at the kicker position they can sign in the event something happens. I’d bet on the former.
If those workouts are a good indication of where they’re going, the Falcons could have as many as three spots tied up with would-be special teams replacements, with the punter, a possible long snapper, and a returner (think recent workout Greg Dortch or the loser of what I still think is a Chris Rowland/Brandon Powell battle) all getting spots. My guess is that we’ll only see the reserve punter to start things off, but given this team’s appreciation for special teams and the weirdness of a COVID-19 2020, nothing should surprise you.