We’re a week out from Falcons - Eagles, and I’m finding myself legitimately excited for Week 1. The biggest source of intrigue between now and the game ahead concerns the roster, which doesn’t quite feel like a finished product.
The Falcons showed us that we shouldn’t take their roster for granted almost immediately, scooping up former Browns guard Colby Gossett with Josh Andrews getting hurt and grabbing running back Wayne Gallman while cutting Qadree Ollison. Chances are good that they make at least a couple of other moves between now and gameday, so I thought it would be worth looking at what position groups are most likely to change.
It’ll probably wind up being something no one expects, but hey.
Current players: Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
In his two seasons as Titans offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith’s offense carried two quarterbacks. In both years, he had Ryan Tannehill as the starter, with Marcus Mariota as the backup in 2019 and Logan Woodside in 2020. Two years does not a trend make—it’s possible that the Falcons will actually carry three quarterbacks for a while—but it still doesn’t seem particularly likely.
Atlanta seems like they’ll be using the next week and everything they’ve seen to this point in practice and preseason to decide whether Franks or Rosen should be carried on the roster, with the other player likely hitting the practice squad. Rosen showed in his short stint in the third preseason game that he’s the more refined passer at this point—it would have been alarming if he wasn’t—but this coaching staff very obviously likes Franks’ scrambling ability, arm and athleticism enough to keep him around in some capacity. I’d expect Rosen to stick and Franks to hit the practice squad unless the team really fears losing Franks to someone.
Current players: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Tajae Sharpe, Christian Blake, Frank Darby
My working assumption was that the team might carry only five receivers, given the lack of impressive options this summer and Arthur Smith’s mega-crush on tight ends. There’s also the not-small matter that Cordarrelle Patterson has been credibly playing receiver for years and could step in for that role in a pinch. When the team decided to only keep three running backs on the active roster and three tight ends, that opened things up for both Blake and Darby to stick on the final roster.
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with tight end, which we’ll cover in a moment, but I would not be surprised if the team does ultimately carry five receivers into the season. Sharpe is here for his familiarity with Arthur Smith and his size, Blake for his solid all-around game and Darby for his upside and special teams play, but the Falcons have three wide receivers on the practice squad right now after signing Keelan Doss and it doesn’t seem likely all three of these players will even be active on gameday. I’m just genuinely unsure which one will go if the Falcons decide to trim a receiver, but I’d lean Blake at the moment.
Former Titan and capable blocker Parker Hesse is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and if he’s activated before the game I’d fully expect him to steal at least a practice squad spot. It feels more likely, given Smith’s aforementioned love of tight ends and Tennessee carrying four tight ends a year ago, that Hesse joins the roster for Week 1 if he’s ready.
If that’s the case, it’s probably a receiver who gets the boot, as discussed above, or the spot vacated by a cornerback, as discussed below. . I’m not putting Hesse’s name down with permanent marker, but given that Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst are here more for their receiving ability than blocking and that Lee Smith is 33 years old, it would not be surprising to see him carve out a role on this roster.
Kendall Sheffield has not yet been placed on injured reserve, despite reports from a few days ago indicating that he would be. Until we hear otherwise I’m assuming that’s just a matter of time, and would free up a roster spot for someone else.
While Sheffield spends what are hopefully a few short weeks on injured reserve, it would not be stunning if the Falcons simply added one more corner while they figure out what a largely young secondary is capable of in the first couple of weeks of the season. Expecting them to carry 11 defensive backs when T.J. Green is basically a swing DB seems silly—I know I didn’t expect that outcome ahead of the cut down to a 53 player roster—but unless the Falcons feel very comfortable with Darren Hall and Avery Williams they might bring on a veteran corner for a couple of weeks to tide them over.
There’s also the possibility of another offensive lineman with Josh Andrews on the shelf, but with Jalen Mayfield, Colby Gossett and Drew Dalman all at least theoretically capable of playing guard, that might not be viewed as an immediate need.
What positions do you think might transform between now and Sunday?