The starting lineup isn’t all settled, but with roster cuts in the rearview and many more in front of us, I’m interested in talking about who is vying to make the roster. For many, the Jaguars game will be their final chance to make their case to make the 53 man roster, or even the Falcons practice squad.
With the game just days away and major cuts less than a week away, here is a look at some of the roster battles worth monitoring when the Falcons play the Jaguars.
The final running back spot
Who’s contending? Tyler Allgeier, Qadree Ollison, Caleb Huntley
Who’s the favorite?Tyler Allgeier
The Falcons said it loud and clear by barely playing Cordarrelle Patterson and only giving Damien Williams short run with the starters. Patterson will start, Williams will be a critical reserve with outsized third down duties, and Avery Williams is likely to make the roster as a punt returner and versatile weapon.
That leaves just one spot, and it’s fair to assume Allgeier will get it. He got a lot of run last night and looked good running the ball and catching it, and that plus his draft status should be enough to push him onto the roster. We’ll see if Ollison or Huntley can make a late push, but chances are they’re fighting it out for a practice squad slot at this point.
The final wide receiver spot(s)
Who’s contending? Frank Darby, Damiere Byrd, Jared Bernhardt, Stanley Berryhill, Cameron Batson, KeeSean Johnson
Who are the favorites? Frank Darby, Damiere Byrd, Jared Bernhardt
This is still pretty unsettled, in my mind, but we’re closer to clarity after the team cut ties with Geronimo Allison and Auden Tate yesterday. Johnson seems unlikely to make the cut after joining the team so recently and Berryhill seems more likely to be a practice squad stash after he didn’t play much against the Jets, which leaves four players.
It likely depends on what the Falcons are looking for in a final one or two spots in the receiving corps. Darby has some experience as a gunner and is a player the Falcons liked enough to draft a year ago, while Byrd is an experienced receiver with plenty of speed. Bernhardt has been impressive this summer and the team may lose him if they try to stash him on the practice squad, and Batson has both ties to Arthur Smith and some versatility to his name.
Ultimately, I think it’ll come down to Darby or Byrd, with the team trying to sneak Bernhardt to the practice squad. Nobody should be stunned if the rookie, with one more solid preseason game, forces the issue.
Blocking tight end
Who’s contending? Parker Hesse, John FitzPatrick, MyCole Pruitt
Who’s the favorite? MyCole Pruitt
If you had asked me a month ago, I would’ve pointed to Hesse’s experience with the Falcons last year and well-rounded game. Now I think Pruitt has a real shot of unseating him.
Why? Pruitt has impressed in his time with the team, showing good hands and an ability to get open as a pass catcher in addition to his well-regarded skills as a blocker. That and Arthur Smith’s obvious affinity for him should give him a leg up on backing up Kyle Pitts and Anthony Firkser, unless Hesse blows the doors off in the final preseason game. It’s worth noting that Hesse is running ahead of Pruitt on the depth chart and has experience serving as a capable backup for the Falcons from a year ago, so it may well come down to the final game.
FitzPatrick will likely be ticketed for the practice squad.
Final offensive lineman
Who’s contending? Rick Leonard, Colby Gossett, Justin Shaffer, Leroy Watson, Tyler Vrabel,
Who’s the favorite? Colby Gossett
Gossett ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got some experience at tackle and guard, he’s familiar with and to offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford, he’s played fairly well in preseason, and he spent all last year with the team, including one solid start at left guard. The Falcons will be looking for versatility and reliability with that last spot, and Gossett provides both. I’m assuming that Jalen Mayfield, Germain Ifedi, and Drew Dalman/Matt Hennessy are pretty well locked in here.
Leonard has to be considered a legitimate contender, as well, but his penalty-marred performance against the Jets probably works against him. A bounceback effort against the Jaguars might save the day, even so.
It’ll be interesting to see who hits the practice squad, as I have to think the team will add multiple offensive linemen. If they don’t hit the waiver wire after a cutdown to the 53 man roster, I’d bet on Shaffer and Watson.
Defensive line reserve roles
Who’s contending? Abdullah Anderson, Timothy Horne, Derrick Tangelo, Darrion Daniels, Nick Thurman, Marlon Davidson*
Who are the favorites? TBD
It feels safe to say that Grady Jarrett, Ta’Quon Graham, and Anthony Rush have roles carved out. That leaves several players fighting for what are likely to be a couple of spots, and with Jalen Dalton waived/injured yesterday, it’s hard to say there’s an obvious favorite.
Anderson has done well and Thurman has been a player the coaching staff talked up in the past, while Daniels has quietly had a quality summer. I think Horne and Tangelo are more likely ticketed for the practice squad than the roster and Davidson’s status is incredibly uncertain given that he’s on the shelf for the rest of the preseason, and so this feels like the battle where perhaps the final preseason game will matter the most.
If I had to guess, I’d say Anderson and Daniels, with the Falcons probably scouring the final round of cuts for further additions. Between Eddie Goldman’s retirement, Davidson and Dalton getting hurt, and more attrition, they clearly need more help.
Last defensive back(s)
Who’s contending? Mike Ford, Teez Tabor, Dee Alford, Lafayette Pitts, Corey Ballentine, Matt Hankins
Who’s the favorite? Dee Alford; Teez Tabor as well if they keep two
There’s no question that Alford has earned a spot. He’s shown well all summer, but has been particularly impressive in each of the first two preseason games, showing the kind of ability that could make him more than just a reserve down the line. It would be the stunner of the summer if he doesn’t make it.
Will there be room for one more, perhaps a sixth cornerback and fifth safety hybrid, assuming the team is also keeping A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, Isaiah Oliver, and Darren Hall at corner, as well as Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, Erik Harris, and Dean Marlowe at safety? If so, Tabor seems to be the likeliest candidate, as he’s played multiple roles in the past and is fresh off a solid effort against the Jets that saw him pick off a pass.
Ford is the wild card here, as a veteran with extensive special teams experience and plenty of reps at the nickel this offseason, but he hasn’t distinguished himself in preseason play to this point. If the team does keep two, I imagine they’ll be choosing between Tabor and Ford along with Alford.
What other roster battles are you keeping a close eye on?