The Falcons are gearing up to finish the 2022 season, and with just two games left, it’s fair to wonder whether there are many changes ahead. This team wants to earn a couple wins at the end of the year, get plenty of time for young players like Desmond Ridder and Troy Andersen, and try to show more of the progress they’ve talked about all year long. That’s all pretty cut and dry.
All that said, the Falcons may wind up getting an unexpected late season look at a pair of rookies who have spent a significant chunk of the season on injured reserve. That’d be wide receiver Jared Bernhardt and offensive lineman Justin Shaffer, both of whom have been designated to return from IR, per our own Kevin Knight.
#Falcons officially designated WR Jared Bernhardt to return to practice off IR.— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) December 28, 2022
OL Justin Shaffer was also designated to return off practice squad IR.
Bernhardt may well re-join the roster for the last game or two, where he’ll presumably get some run given his summer rapport with Ridder. The converted lacrosse player, whose story was chronicled by Adnan Ikic, was one of three undrafted free agents to make the roster in September after reeling in five catches for 102 yards in preseason action. It was evident that the Falcons liked Bernhardt’s promise and the way he and Ridder connected in August, and if all goes well they’ll probably get a little game action for the rookie receiver before the season wraps up. Given that Bernhardt is under contract affordably the next two seasons, per OverTheCap, any steps they can take to determine whether he’ll be a capable contributor are worth taking.
We may or may not see Shaffer. The former Georgia guard is a mauler in the ground game, but that wasn’t quite enough to get him on to the roster. He did stick on the practice squad as a developmental option for an unsettled guard group, and with Chuma Edoga hitting injured reserve and Jalen Mayfield out for the year, it’s possible he may be flexed to the roster as a reserve over the final couple of weeks. He figures to be in the mix for at least a reserve role in 2023, if not pushing for the starting job at left guard.
We’ll hope both are healthy enough to return this week, and it’d be nice to see both rookies in action in the final two games.