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Falcons 53-man roster projection: Training Camp Edition

Falcons training camp kicks off this week, which means it’s time for an update to our 53-man roster projection. How have things changed in Atlanta over the course of the offseason?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a busy offseason for the Atlanta Falcons, with a plethora of moves in both free agency and the draft. That long, (thankfully) eventful time is coming to an end this week. At long last, training camp is finally here!

With the veterans reporting on Tuesday and practice officially kicking off on Wednesday, it’s time for an update to my 53-man roster projection. My initial projection came in just after the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, so there’s been a bit of movement on the fringes of the roster.

While I haven’t had a chance to see any of these players in action yet, we’ve heard plenty of reports from OTAs and minicamp. So we’ve got a bit of information to help decide some of the tougher battles. Needless to say, this is still mostly a guess at this stage. It’s still fun though!

Speaking of fun, if you’ll be in Atlanta for training camp, you should just us at our first ever live event at SweetWater Brewing Company on Friday, July 28!

The roster projection is also available in both video and audio format, which you can find embedded below. If you enjoyed the written version, consider giving us a click on these platforms as well.

Listen to the audio version of this article using the player below, or find it on your favorite podcast platforms.

Italics denote a change from the previous roster projection.


QB - 2

Desmond Ridder
Taylor Heinicke

No changes here heading into training camp. Desmond Ridder is currently the unquestioned starter and that doesn’t seem likely to change. Taylor Heinicke is a quality backup who can provide solid starting play if needed, but his ceiling is well known at this stage. The biggest question with this group is whether or not the team carries Logan Woodside on the 53-man roster to take advantage of the new third quarterback rule.

RB - 4

Bijan Robinson
Tyler Allgeier
Cordarrelle Patterson
Carlos Washington Jr.

Caleb Huntley is currently on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and is likely to miss the start of the 2023 season.

With Avery Williams heading to IR and Caleb Huntley almost certainly beginning camp on the PUP list, the Falcons are down to just four healthy running backs on the roster. That’s not enough for practice and it’s especially not enough for preseason games. We’re likely to see one or two additions to this position within a few days of training camp starting.

That being said, the top three backs are clearly set in stone. There’s currently an incredible opportunity for UDFA Carlos Washington Jr. to make the 53-man roster, as he’s technically unopposed at this stage. It does suggest quite a bit of confidence in Washington Jr., as the team seems to be in no hurry to add anyone else to the group. I’d love to see a few veterans brought in to compete, like Dontrell Hilliard (Titans) and Justin Jackson (Lions).

FB - 1

Keith Smith

No changes here, and I’d still call Keith Smith the heavy favorite to win the job due to his special teams acumen. That being said, Clint Ratkovich is the most intriguing fullback they’ve brought in to compete thus far.

TE - 4

Kyle Pitts
Jonnu Smith
Parker Hesse
John FitzPatrick

No reason to change any predictions here. The first three are all roster locks—the battle will be for TE4, where 2022 seventh-rounder John FitzPatrick and former UDFAs Feleipe Franks and Tucker Fisk are all in the mix. I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s another addition to this group, and I expect veteran MyCole Pruitt is on speed dial should this group fail to impress.

WR - 5

Drake London
Mack Hollins
Scotty Miller
KhaDarel Hodge
Josh Ali

I think the first three spots in this wide receiver depth chart are pretty much locked up, and the fourth is probably KhaDarel Hodge’s to lose due to his elite special teams ability. It’s the fifth (and possibly sixth) spots that are completely wide open, with no clear favorites whatsoever. I’ve been surprised by the buzz surrounding former UDFA Josh Ali, who seems to have garnered the attention of the coaching staff. ESPN’s Michael Rothstein even named him as Atlanta’s “surprise offseason standout”:

Ali, who was on the practice squad last season after suffering a knee injury late in his college career at Kentucky, worked a bunch in 2022 with Falcons starting quarterback Desmond Ridder. That chemistry has shown, and Ali has gotten work with the veterans, usually a good sign for a player with 14 career snaps and one career target.

Ali is also a factor in the battle for punt returner. He averaged 14.8 yards per punt return and recorded his first punt return touchdown in his final college season. While he’s got some stiff competition from veterans Mike Hughes and Penny Hart, along with spicy UDFA Xavier Malone, winning that battle would be a clear path to the roster.

OL - 9

LT Jake Matthews
LG Matthew Bergeron
C Drew Dalman
RG Chris Lindstrom
RT Kaleb McGary

C/G Matt Hennessy
C/G Ryan Neuzil
G/T Josh Miles
G/T Ethan Greenidge

Four of the five spots on the starting offensive line are set in stone, which is a good thing for continuity. The one open competition—left guard—features a solid veteran option in Matt Hennessy and a second-round rookie in Matthew Bergeron. I expect Bergeron to take the lead by the team Week 1 rolls around, but I wouldn’t entirely count out Hennessy.

The team did make the surprising decision to move on from veteran Germain Ifedi—who many had penciled in as the obvious swing tackle. I doubt we’ll ever get the full story there, but it does leave the team with a lot of question marks behind the starters. My gut still says that Josh Miles is the favorite, but behind him it’s pretty wide open. I’m leaning towards former Saints lineman Ethan Greenidge at this very early juncture.


EDGE - 6

Calais Campbell
Arnold Ebiketie
Lorenzo Carter
Bud Dupree
DeAngelo Malone
Zach Harrison

No changes in this group, and I’d be surprised if there are any. The bigger question is whether or not the team is willing to keep this many edge rushers on the 53-man roster. Unless they’re willing to cut someone with guaranteed money (Dupree, Carter) or a highly-drafted young player (Malone, Harrison), they sort of have to. Luckily, two of these players offer some position flexibility (Campbell on the IDL, Carter at LB) which can help with the roster math.

IDL - 4

Grady Jarrett
David Onyemata
Ta’Quon Graham
Eddie Goldman

The top three players are all roster locks, but the nose tackle job is completely up for grabs. Veteran Eddie Goldman is the heavy favorite if he’s healthy and ready to go, but that’s a big enough question mark that the team has brought in multiple competitors (Timmy Horne, Carlos Davis) to challenge him.

Outside of that, the question is if the team will carry a fifth interior player. Typically the answer would be yes, but because of the additional player at EDGE, the math is tougher. I’d really like to keep the criminally-underrated Joe Gaziano around, but it’s a difficult proposition.

LB - 5

Kaden Elliss
Troy Andersen
Mykal Walker
Dorian Etheridge
Andre Smith Jr.

While I’m confident that Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen will be Atlanta’s Week 1 starters, I have very little conviction about the rest of the linebacker group. Veteran Mykal Walker is the most difficult to place, as he could be anything from a primary sub-package player to off the roster at final cuts due to $2.7M in salary cap savings.

I’ve had a change of heart for the bottom of this group, as I think we’ll see a few special teams-focused players kept to bolster Marquice Williams’ unit. Dorian Etheridge appears to be fully healthy once more and has been turning heads during the offseason. The hero of the 2021 preseason will have another big opportunity this year. Atlanta also brought in two veteran specialists in Andre Smith Jr. and Tae Davis, and I’m leaning towards Smith Jr. getting the nod at this stage.

CB - 6

A.J. Terrell
Jeff Okudah
Dee Alford
Mike Hughes
Clark Phillips III
Tre Flowers

No changes to most of my predictions here, though the signing of Tre Flowers shuffled things a bit. There are going to be some difficult decisions to make with this group, as the competition for the final few spots will be fierce. We’re likely to see at least one of Dee Alford, Darren Hall, or Tre Flowers off the roster at final cuts.

Given Alford’s status as the favorite for the starting slot cornerback role, he appears to be pretty safe. Flowers is a unique matchup corner against receiving tight ends, and I think that helps him carve out a role alongside his ability on special teams. That makes things tricky for Hall, who I think is more than deserving of a depth role but could be the odd man out here.

S - 4

Jessie Bates III
Richie Grant
Jaylinn Hawkins
DeMarcco Hellams

No changes here. There is the potential for Atlanta to carry a fifth safety if, say, Micah Abernathy or Lukas Denis shows more than the fifth linebacker or sixth cornerback. But at this stage, I’d imagine this group of four is the most likely outcome.


K Younghoe Koo

P Bradley Pinion

LS Liam McCullough

No changes here. Yes, I know the team giving a two-year deal to UDFA kicker Matthew Trickett is a bit odd, but it’s really not important. Maybe they just feel more comfortable with another Matt on the roster.


KR Cordarrelle Patterson

PR Mike Hughes

Since the punt returner battle is really up for grabs, I’ll start tracking this in the roster projection. Veteran Cordarrelle Patterson is still one of the NFL’s premier kick returners, and is a threat to take it to the house at any moment. At punt returner, it’s a wide-open battle between (so far): CB Mike Hughes, WR Penny Hart, WR Josh Ali, WR Xavier Malone, and WR Scotty Miller. Hughes has the most potential of anyone in this group, as he was an elite returner in college. He simply hasn’t gotten many opportunities to do it in the NFL.

What are your thoughts on this potential roster for the Falcons? Will you be joining us at training camp this week?