Atlanta has almost assembled a practice squad and imported two players via waivers yesterday, but chances are they aren’t even close to done shuffling the roster. That’s a good thing.
Why? Because Atlanta could always use upgrades. Last year, nose tackle was a trouble spot for them until they found Anthony Rush, and their outside linebacker depth was a huge problem. This year, Rush is here and Timothy Horne could be a capable piece behind him, and the outside linebacker group is younger and looks stronger than it did in 2021. New trouble spots have cropped up, as they tend to do, and Atlanta still has holes on the roster that ought to be addressed as the weeks go on.
You can make a reasonable case for the Falcons to seek out more talent just about anywhere, but I’ll focus on three spots where the need seems particularly acute right now.
Kyle Pitts is an all-world caliber player already, and Parker Hesse is a quality blocker and solid enough receiver. The addition of MyCole Pruitt to the practice squad certainly helps me feel better about the team’s depth, as well.
All that said, this is currently one of the thinnest positions on the roster, which is unexpected. Anthony Firkser is gone and we’re not sure if the Falcons are bringing him back, and John FitzPatrick is both a rookie and possibly injured. I know the team has faith in Feleipe Franks, but he’s not someone I’d want to count on for a significant role right away, and Hesse’s upside as a pass catcher still seems somewhat limited.
What’s the plan here? Just re-adding Firkser if FitzPatrick hits injured reserve would help me feel a lot better—Pitts and Firkser as pass catching options, Hesse as a quality blocker, plus Franks in whatever role the team envisions is a solid enough group—but I’d welcome more additions here.
Chuma Edoga isn’t a high-end addition to the team based on his track record, but he is a proven player with positional versatility who can play either side. Germain Ifedi has extensive starting experience at right tackle and some at right guard, so the tackle group appears set. Ditto center, where the loser of the Matt Hennessy/Drew Dalman battle will at least be a capable fill-in if the need arises.
Things are less certain at guard, at least at left guard. Elijah Wilkinson is starting on the left side for the first time in his career, and his only backup on the roster is Jalen Mayfield, who is hurt and coming off another uninspiring summer. Justin Shaffer and Ryan Neuzil are options on the practice squad, but Neuzil focused more on center this summer and Shaffer does not look ready for primetime just yet.
That’s all to say that the Falcons either have to have a bedrock belief in Mayfield’s ability and help, or they need to go shopping. Colby Gossett is an option to return for Atlanta, given that he’s a fine player and just spent last year with the Falcons, but otherwise the team probably needs to seriously consider adding a veteran option to the practice squad.
The offensive line more generally is obviously the biggest concern on that side of the ball, and we’re still not sure how it will look in regular season action. Just knowing they have options at guard if things go awry would go a long way.
Maybe the biggest trouble spot on the roster, at least in terms of depth. Grady Jarrett is a great player, full stop, and both Anthony Rush and Ta’Quon Graham are young enough and solid enough to feel good about as prominent pieces of the puzzle. As I said in the introduction to this article, Rush has at least solidified the nose tackle position in a way Atlanta struggled to do last year. Beyond that group, however, it’s largely unproven waiver claim Matt Dickerson and rookie undrafted free agent Timothy Horne, plus an injured Marlon Davidson. Throw in Derrick Tangelo, who I do really like, on the practice squad.
The problem is that even if everyone’s healthy, there are not enough proven players here to field a rotation you’d feel great about. Will Dickerson blossom in a reunion with his old coach in Tennessee? Will Horne look as good as he did in preseason, but in regular season action? Will Davidson get healthy and reach his final form, and will Tangelo prove ready for an early season call-up? That is a lot of question marks about that group, and it’s quite possible none of those things happen and the team’s depth chart looks barren behind the starting trio.
Atlanta ought to keep shopping and keep an eye out for any potential impact additions, because they still need them.
What other positions would you add to this list?