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Falcons finalize initial 16 man practice squad

Atlanta has their set of deep reserves, gameday flexes, and developmental options, and it’s an interesting one.

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Falcons have now settled on the initial version of their 16 man practice squad, with D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting that former Bears nose tackle Khyiris Tonga is the final player.

Here’s the list of all sixteen players, which includes 13 guys who spent time with the Falcons this summer and three additions from outside the 90 man roster.

  • RB Caleb Huntley
  • WR Cameron Batson
  • WR Frank Darby
  • WR Josh Ali
  • TE MyCole Pruitt
  • TE Anthony Firkser
  • TE Tucker Fisk
  • T Tyler Vrabel
  • G Justin Shaffer
  • C/G Ryan Neuzil
  • DL Derrick Tangelo
  • DL Khyiris Tonga
  • OLB Jordan Brailford
  • CB Ka’Dar Hollman
  • CB Matt Hankins
  • S/CB Teez Tabor

Here’s what’s we can glean from this list.

Atlanta’s stacking depth at tight end and wide receiver

At least for now. The Falcons kept a great story and promising player in Jared Bernhardt and an experienced veteran in Damiere Byrd as their fifth and sixth option, but they held on to Darby, Batson, and Ali regardless. Part of that is likely special teams value—Ali was a good punt returner in college, Batson has experience as a kick returner, and Darby has experienced as a gunner—but the Falcons appear to want to develop and hold on to more depth early in the year. With Drake London recovering from an injury, Bryan Edwards banged up in preseason, and Hodge and Bernhardt fairly unproven as receivers, it’s probably a smart move.

At tight end, you should probably expect at least one player to be flexed to the active roster on Sunday. Right now only Kyle Pitts and Parker Hesse are proven options at the position, with Feleipe Franks set to play there on at least a part-time basis. Firkser, Pruitt, or both might be to provide the team with more depth, but at the very least they’re veteran options in case injuries or ineffectiveness crop up in the tight end corps.

They’re set to develop young offensive linemen

It’s ideal to have at least one player you think is worth developmental time at each position group along the offensive line, and that’s where Atlanta is thankfully at. Vrabel will hope to crack the depth chart at tackle next year, Shaffer feels like a virtual lock to be competing for a reserve role by 2023, and Neuzil is an intriguing developmental option at center. If injuries do pop up—and they already have, with Jalen Mayfield on the shelf for a while—Atlanta will have options.

They trust their depth at positions like QB, ILB, and the specialists

There was a lot of speculation about whether the Falcons might add a practice squad quarterback—I probably did a lot of that speculating, to be fair—or a specialist. That intensified after they worked out some long snappers this past week.

In the end, though, they’re trusting Feleipe Franks as their de facto third quarterback. They’re counting on the depth at inside linebacker to carry the day, with Nick Kwiatkoski, Troy Andersen, and Nate Landman holding down the fort even though Dorian Etheridge and Deion Jones are on the shelf. And they’re rolling with Younghoe Koo, Bradley Pinion, and Liam McCullough with no safety net for the moment, which at least in the case of Koo is obviously very justified. There’s nothing stopping them from shuffling things down the line, but it’s a nice early vote of confidence for those groups.

Expect this practice squad to change a lot during the season—and hell, they might bring a tight end to the active roster before the first game—but give a warm welcome to everyone who’s here at the moment.