The first preseason game is in the books and...well, it wasn’t very fun to watch. Hopefully you entered Friday night fully prepared for that based on Falcons preseason from at least 2008-2019.
Arthur Smith acknowledged that it was ugly in his post-game comments, and also that Atlanta went into the first preseason game fully intending to play a lot of young players to get a sense of what they had ahead of some impending roster cuts.
Arthur Smith says he decided not to play starters because he wants to see a lot of the young guys play since they have to make roster moves Tuesday & they also have joint practices next week and that’s when things really ramp up more. #RiseUpATL— Alison Mastrangelo (@AlisonWSB) August 14, 2021
In total, the Falcons now have to make five roster cuts between now and Tuesday afternoon, and the week after that they’ll have another five to consider. For this round, they have training camp practices and a single, dispiriting preseason game to go on, which will give Arthur Smith and company plenty to consider.
We should start by looking at positions where the team has relative surpluses of players. The Falcons are carrying more than 10 listed defensive linemen and may only keep 7 or 8, at least 15 offensive linemen on a unit that has 4 obvious starters and looked terrible against Tennessee, 12 wide receivers on a team that might legitimately only carry 5 and a ton of defensive backs who had largely forgettable games. Given the intensity of the battles at running back and both inside and outside linebacker, I’d expect your cuts to start in those position groups.
Honestly, I’m not at all certain about who from those groups might be on that cut list, especially before I see who did and did not get snaps on Friday night. Anyone who isn’t a starter and barely saw the field against the Titans is presumably in trouble, and players who did get extended looks and had some impressive plays like linebacker Dorian Etheridge, punter Cameron Nizialeak, quarterback Feleipe Franks and pass rusher Shareef Miller are presumably safe for now.
We’ll see who Atlanta does elect to cut, but this shortened preseason means the roster’s going to be trimmed at (relatively speaking) lightning speed. Those Falcons who didn’t excel on Friday night are going to need to do so soon to avoid the axe.