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Falcons snap counts from a tie against the Bengals

Atlanta’s position battles seem pretty close to settled everywhere except along the lines.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Snap counts, anyone?

Friday night’s game against the Bengals gave us some clear trend lines for playing time and pecking order for this Falcons team, with the fourth running back slot, reserve roles on the back end of the defense, and more seemingly close to settled. The picture remains muddier along both lines and at wide receiver, but there’s one game just a few days away to finally settle matters for Atlanta.

Let’s get into those counts.


Tyler Vrabel: 41 (59%)

Taylor Heinicke: 41

Ryan Neuzil: 41

Kyle Hinton: 35

Parker Hesse: 32

Jonotthan Harrison: 29

Godwin Igwebuike: 28

John FitzPatrick: 27

Jalen Mayfield: 27

Josh Miles: 25

Carlos Washington: 24

Keilhan Harris: 23

Matthew Bergeron: 23

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: 22

Xavier Malone: 22

Josh Ali: 20

Penny Hart: 19

Scotty Miller: 19

Jovaughn Gwyn: 17

Justin Shaffer: 17

Kaleb McGary: 17

Jake Matthews: 17

Drew Dalman: 17

Desmond Ridder: 17

Chris Lindstrom: 17

Mack Hollins: 14

Bijan Robinson: 12

Drake London: 12

Barry Wesley: 11

Logan Woodside: 11

Michal Menet: 11

Mathew Sexton: 10

MyCole Pruitt: 9

Kyle Pitts: 9

KhaDarel Hodge: 8

Tucker Fisk: 8

Slade Bolden: 7

Jonnu Smith: 7

Clint Ratkovich: 5

Tyler Allgeier: 5

Keith Smith: 3

It’s helpful to glance at this while looking at Aaron Freeman’s “actual” depth chart, which shows when players actually got into the game on Friday night. Doing so paints a picture of who the Falcons most want to look at.

At running back, Washington is still running behind Igwebuike, and Friday night it was again easy to see why. Washington was a player I was keen to see and he again ran the ball well, with 15 yards on five carries and a touchdown, while adding another 23 yards on three receptions as an outlet option. Igwebuike wasn’t a factor in the passing game for the second straight week, but did look dynamic as a runner once more, carrying the ball 14 times for 61 yards and returning a pair of kicks for an average of 22 yards a pop. There should be room for both backs, with one likely hitting the practice squad, but if Patterson remains in doubt for Week 1 there’s no way the Falcons are letting Igwebuike go after he’s looked so good in extended action in preseason.

At receiver, things are still muddled, but unfortunately injury might be a clarifier. We’re waiting to see what happens with KhaDarel Hodge and Penny Hart, who were both injured against the Bengals. If Hodge misses any length of time, it opens up a spot owing to his status as a virtual roster lock. Hart, meanwhile, may lose ground. I thought Josh Ali looked good as the team’s leading receiver with three grabs for 39 yards as a reliable option over the middle, while Arcega-Whiteside made one of the grabs of the evening down the sideline on a deep ball from Taylor Heinicke. Add in Malone, who had a pair of nice catches and nearly came down with a touchdown from Heinicke, and look at when the trio entered the ballgame and it appears to be a four man race between that trio and Hart for one or two spots. We’ll need an injury update to figure out where that race stands today, but the final preseason game will help decide it. I still lean toward Malone, with Ali being the choice if there’s room for two.

Along the line, the intrigue now centers on who makes it as a reserve beyond Neuzil, who played a ton and turned in sterling work as a run blocker, even if he was one of the many Falcons with struggles in pass protection Friday night. Jalen Mayfield’s case for swing tackle will have taken a hit if the team isn’t already locked onto him as a choice, as he was brutally bad in pass protection yet again at left tackle, earning a comically poor 4.4 grade from Pro Football Focus (which you may take with the requisite grain of salt if you wish) for his work. Tyler Vrabel, who got a ton of work at right tackle and has flown under the radar somewhat, scored more positively and passed the eye test, and I would think he and Josh Miles are still hanging around in the tackle competition at this point with one game to go. The sneaky pick to make the roster beyond him might be Kyle Hinton, who has done fine work each of the past two weeks and can credibly play multiple positions.

Regardless of how you slice things along the line, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Falcons will add to this group post-cutdown.

Finally, all three quarterbacks looked at least solid on Friday night, even if Woodside took time to get cooking. Ridder’s starting and Heinicke is lcoekd in as his backup, and the only question is whether Woodside makes the 53 man roster or sits on the practice squad.


Clark Phillips: 48 (76%)

DeMarcco Hellams: 45

Darren Hall: 34

Natrone Brooks: 32

Zach Harrison: 31

Micah Abernathy: 28

Mike Jones Jr.: 28

Kemoko Turay: 27

Tae Davis: 24

Breon Borders: 24

Nate Landman: 24

Albert Huggins: 24

Carlos Davis: 22

Arnold Ebiketie: 21

LaCale London: 21

Andre Smith Jr.: 20

DeAngelo Malone: 18

Jaylinn Hawkins: 18

Timothy Horne: 18

Clifford Chattman: 15

Lukas Denis: 14

Bless Austin: 14

A.J. Terrell: 11

Jessie Bates: 11

Kaden Elliss: 11

Tre Flowers: 11

Troy Andersen: 11

Richie Grant: 11

Delontae Scott: 10

Demone Harris: 10

Frank Ginda: 8

Dee Alford: 7

Justin Elliss: 7

Grady Jarrett: 7

Bud Dupree: 7

Calais Campbell: 7

David Onyemata: 6

Caeveon Patton: 4

Lorenzo Carter: 4

The snap counts and when players entered the game once again tell us a lot this week. The Falcons were especially keen to get a look at Clark Phillips, but his roster spots should be secured. Ditto Tre Flowers, who entered with the starters. We don’t know when Mike Hughes will return, but if and when he does, it’s unclear the Falcons will have any room at cornerback for Darren Hall or anyone else vying for a spot. It should be A.J. Terrell, Flowers until Jeff Okudah returns, Dee Alford, Phillips, and Hughes, and then perhaps one spot that Hall and seems to be the favorite for with Borders set to serve a suspension.

Things are similarly fairly settled at linebacker, where the only big question is whether Turay is doing enough with his extended snaps to stick in the outside linebacker group. At inside linebacker the Falcons seem settled with Landman and Davis as depth, with Jones Jr. and Smith Jr. competing for what’s likely to be a single practice squad spot. I thought both played well on Friday, leaving the door open for one to settle things against Pittsburgh on Thursday. Delontae Scott is a late addition who is realistically just pushing for a practice squad spot at outside linebacker, but he helped himself there with an excellent day in extended action Friday.

Up front, Horne and Huggins are clearly up for depth spots, with Gaziano’s absence giving Huggins a chance to continue to push for a roster spot. It’s down to that trio for 1-2 depth spots, as it has been for a while now, and the hope for Atlanta will be that Gaziano can play in the preseason finale and help the team decide. Carlos Davis and LaCale London both got longer looks up front and played well enough to be in the running for practice spot roles themselves, assuming the Falcons don’t keep anyone.

And the final note here is an obvious one: Hellams has played quite well, draws consistent praise from the coaching staff, and is making this roster. The only question is whether Abernathy, who has been solid and offers special teams value himself, is also sticking or not.

Special Teams

DeAngelo Malone: 13

Micah Abernathy: 11

Bradley Pinion: 9

DeMarcco Hellams: 8

Godwin Igwebuike: 8

John FitzPatrick: 7

Darren Hall: 7

Tucker Fisk: 7

Tae Davis: 7

Arnold Ebiketie: 7

Andre Smith Jr:. 7

Natrone Brooks: 6

Jaylinn Hawkins: 6

Zach Harrison: 6

Breon Borders: 6

Liam McCullough: 6

Nate Landman: 5

Mikes Jones Jr.: 5

Penny Hart: 5

Clifford Chattman: 5

Frank Ginda: 5

Younghoe Koo: 4

Lukas Denis: 4

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: 4

Mathew Sexton: 4

Clint Ratkovich: 4

Tyler Vrabel: 3

Dee Alford: 3

Carlos Davis: 3

Kemoko Turay: 3

Josh Miles: 3

Jovaughn Gwyn: 3

Justin Shaffer: 3

Kyle Hinton: 3

Slade Bolden: 3

Jonotthan Harrison: 3

Parker Hesse: 2

Josh Ali: 2

Xavier Malone: 1

KhaDarel Hodge: 1

Keith Smith: 1

Clark Phillips: 1

LaCale London: 1

Timothy Horne: 1

Bless Austin: 1

Justin Ellis: 1

Special teams snaps are a nice clue for back-of-roster players. In that light, Hellams and Abernathy getting extended time on special teams bodes well for both, and the Falcons may seriously be considering keeping five safeties. I would prioritize Hellams, obviously, but Atlanta is giving Abernathy the snaps on defense and special teams to make his case and I think he’s done a fine job.

Similarly, the time for Hall and and Igwebuike bodes well for both. Igwebuike has made his case across the board for a roster spot and should get it if the Falcons carry more than three backs, while Hall’s mix of experience, versatility, and special teams capabilities should leave him in line for a sixth or seventh cornerback spot if one exists. The duo will get plenty of playing time against Pittsburgh once again, but it would be an upset if they don’t latch on to spots if they are available.

The only other item I’d note is that things get interesting at tight end, where I think we all (justly) assume the depth chart is settled with Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Parker Hesse, and MyCole Pruitt occupying four spots. In that light, it’s between John FitzPatrick and Tucker Fisk for a practice squad tight end role, and I’d put FitzPatrick in the lead because of his slight upside as a pass catcher and fine work in pass protection Friday.