After the trenches proved to be Atlanta’s biggest trouble spot in a veritable ocean of trouble spots during Week 1’s tilt against the Eagles, the Falcons went out and addressed both lines. Sort of.
After we saw reports that the Falcons had cut three practice squad players yesterday, the team confirmed those reports and announced two offensive linemen and one defensive lineman have been added to the practice squad. There’s a chance one or two of them could be flexed to the active roster for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers.
We have signed OL Danny Isidora, DL Mike Pennel and OL Bryan Witzmann to the practice squad and have released K Elliott Fry, WR Juwan Green and TE David Wells from the practice squad.https://t.co/W6CxMw9WFO— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 15, 2021
We’ll start with Danny Isidora. A fifth round pick back in 2017 for the Vikings, he spent two years as a reserve there and started two games in relief of former Falcon Tom Compton at left guard before being traded to the Dolphins. He spent a season there, missing most of the year after hitting injured reserve, and has bounced around since then to three different teams. In total, he’s played in 25 NFL games and started six, three for the Vikings and three for the Dolphins. His experience, however limited, at the left guard position is probably a factor in his signing, and Isidora earned mediocre but notably not horrendous Pro Football Focus grades in 2018 and 2019 as a five game starter in total.
Witzmann is the other offensive lineman. He’s 31 years old and entered the league as an undrafted free agent back in 2014, and has been around the block a bit as a reserve in recent years. His greatest success came in Kansas City, where he was a 13 game starter at left guard back in 2017 and, like Isidora, earned so-so marks for that work. The Falcons are clearly prizing starting experience at left guard with Jalen Mayfield, Drew Dalman and Colby Gossett having so little of it, and while Witzmann’s been primarily a reserve in recent years, that 2017 season tells you that you may be able to throw him into the fire in case of emergency. The Falcons, of course, may be in one of those right now.
My expectation is that Mayfield will still start this week against the Buccaneers, but he’s unlikely to enjoy a long leash if he’s as shaky as he was against the Eagles. I’d fully expect one of Isidora and Witzmann to land on the active roster this week and potentially even earn snaps, though Dalman would presumably be the first man up if Mayfield falters. At the very least, Atlanta’s providing themselves some short term veteran insurance until Josh Andrews returns from injured reserve.
Pennel is a big dude. At 330 pounds, the former Packer, Jet and Chief has played defensive end in 3-4 fronts and nose tackle as well, having played in 91 games and started 16 since entering the league back in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. As his size and longevity in the league suggest, he’s a capable run defender and a credible alternative to Tyeler Davison if the Falcons want to rotate him out a bit more. He’ll give the team experienced depth along a defensive line that wasn’t really capable of stopping the run last week, though as his 2 career sacks would suggest, Pennel isn’t going to offer much as a pass rusher if he is pressed into action.
None of these players figure to be fixes for what ailed the Falcons against Philadelphia, but adding veteran depth to lines that looked very weak in Week 1 isn’t a bad idea. We’ll see if any of the trio end up playing against Tampa Bay this Sunday.