Another offseason has passed and the Falcons have trimmed the roster down to 53 players for the start of the season. The Falcons appear to have reshaped their roster from a year ago, with over one-third of it retooled.
There are a few caveats to the roster, so it is reasonable to expect there may be some changes before the season or in the early weeks. For now, though, this is where the team stands, and it’s worth looking more closely at it before the practice squad additions come in.
Here’s an analysis of the team as it stands now by position.
The Matts stay on as the quarterbacks on the roster. No huge surprise here as the coaching staff still has confidence that Matt Schaub still has the ability to back up Matt Ryan.
However, at 39 years old, it may be best to look for a younger back up sooner rather than later, even if it feels like we’ve been saying that for years. If he clears waivers, Kurt Benkert would be a good practice squad candidate to fill that role down the line, and that’s what we’re expecting.
As was the case in previous seasons, the Falcons will rely on the contribution on multiple backs in the offensive scheme. The difference? The addition of All-Pro Todd Gurley.
Brian Hill has also improved his game and Ito Smith is the ideal change of pace back for the unit. Qadree Ollison may see some short yardage reps to start and is a key Special Teams contributor. Keith Smith has returned as FB for the Falcons, as he signed a 3 year extension. I fully expect this unit to be a versatile and productive one.
This group starts with arguably the best receiver in the game in Julio Jones and rising star Calvin Ridley. This is definitely one of the deepest and more talented groups on the roster. Christian Blake and Brandon Powell end up making the team this season. Powell making it indicates that he will be the return specialist for the Falcons by beating out UDFA Chris Rowland. If Rowland clears waivers, he’s a clear practice squad favorite, but Blake, Zaccheaus, and Powell give the team a group of really interesting young receivers to develop.
Acquired this offseason from the Baltimore Ravens, Hayden Hurst is the unquestioned starter at tight end for the Falcons. Jaeden Graham showed some potential as a pass catcher at TE last season and is expected to see snaps as a backup or in multiple TE sets.
The Falcons also re-acquired Luke Stocker for his blocking ability and familiarity with the offense. It’s an unproven group but if Hurst and Graham thrive, it could be a good one.
The Falcons return 4 of their 5 starters from the 2019 season. Alex Mack and Jake Matthews are the most consistent of the group. Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary are going into their second season on the right side of the line and look to completely solidify it, with Lindstrom carrying a lot of hype. Matt Hennessy is the presumptive starter at LG with James Carpenter being his primary back up.
Justin McCray is a versatile interior lineman that’s expected to be Alex Mack’s primary backup at center. Matt Gono is the team’s swing tackle and John Wetzel is also a backup for the tackles who can play on the interior. This could turn out to be a consistent and solid unit going into 2020, and a versatile set of reserves should help with that.
Dante Fowler, Jr.
This group is led by Grady Jarrett and new offseason FA addition Dante Fowler, Jr. This unit needs to come up big this season for the defense to be effective. Fowler already seems to have made a positive impact on the group in camp, so let’s hope it translates on the field. Marlon Davidson was a very productive pass rusher in Auburn and should initially see some snaps at Nickel DT.
I expect this unit to change soon as Steven Means is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Once activated, he will replace one of these players, and it’s just a question of whether it’ll be Harris, Tuioti-Mariner, or Senat.
This group has seen quite a few changes. Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun are the only two LBs to return from the 2019 season. Mykal Walker was added through the draft and showed a nose for the ball in training camp.
Deone Bucannon and LaRoy Reynolds, a former Falcon that returned, look to be the backups and will be special teams contributors. Reynolds in particular has a lot of experience in that role.
With the addition of AJ Terrell and Darqueze Dennard, this CB group is actually a deep and talented one on paper. Rookie Terrell has already turned heads in training camp, and Dennard has a proven track record as a slot CB. Rounded out by reliable back up Blidi Wreh-Wilson, this could end up being one of the stronger position groups on the roster
Led by the quarterback of the defense in Ricardo Allen, this is a versatile and talented group as well. Having missed all of 2018 and the majority of 2019, Keanu Neal looks to get back to form and bring back the level of physicality the defense was sorely missing. With the ball skills of Damontae Kazee, expect to see some big nickel sets on the defense this season.
Another group with some changes made, this is a fairly young group. Younghoe Koo will take over placekicking duties and Sterling Hofrichter is the team’s new punter. They will need to make sure they work well together for the upcoming season, because aside from Harris they’re largely unproven.
What are your impressions of this roster?