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Falcons announce first practice squad for 2023 season

Atlanta adds 14 players to its practice squad, all familiar faces from the summer.

Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Falcons have unveiled the first iteration of their 2023 practice squad, featuring 14 players (and one unconfirmed player) who all spent time with the team over the course of the summer.

It’s a group heavy on offensive line depth (with three players) and featuring a pair of receivers and tight ends, to boot. We’ll have to see who the 15th and 16th additions are, but there’s a better-than-decent chance one of them will be Josh Miles or another player the Falcons intend to waive in order to make room for new signings.

The full list and details on each player can be found below.

First 2023 practice squad

RB Godwin Igwebuike

WR Xavier Malone

WR Mathew Sexton

TE Parker Hesse

TE Tucker Fisk

G Justin Shaffer

T Tyler Vrabel

T Barry Wesley

DL Timothy Horne

DL LaCale London

OLB Kemoko Turay

ILB Andre Smith Jr.

CB Natrone Brooks

S Micah Abernathy

Igwebuike was one of the stars of the summer, and overtook undrafted free agent Carlos Washington Jr. thanks to his strong showing in preseason action. Fast, savvy, and possessing both kick return experience and talent, Igwebuike figures to see action for this team at some point during the regular season.

Malone is a fun player, one I’m happy is sticking around. He showed off strong hands, good speed, and solid route running in his preseason audition for a roster spot, making a few nice catches along the way, and mixed in as a returner in preseason and training camp. He figures to be up at some point if the Falcons need receiver depth, but Malone is also an interesting long-term stash as a developmental option at a position lacking those.

Sexton is another fast wide receiver with return upside, and like Malone he had some fun moments over the summer. He’s Scotty Miller insurance for the short-term as primarily a slot option, but will get a chance to develop and push for a roster spot in 2024.

Hesse is a blocker first and foremost and a damn good one. He was heavily used in 2021 and especially 2022 as a vital cog in Atlanta’s elite ground game, and it was somewhat surprising to see him cut. Now he’s just a promotion away from the roster again, where he’ll provide depth at tight end and (if pressed into action) fullback.

Fisk is a fellow blocker, albeit a younger one, who spent time on the line in college. He’s essentially an emergency option at the moment for Atlanta and would be behind Hesse for a promotion to the roster, one assumes, but if he continues to show improvement the Falcons may find a spot for him in 2024 when MyCole Pruitt and Hesse are no longer under contract.

Shaffer, a Georgia product and 2022 sixth round pick, was known coming out of college for his run-blocking acumen. He hasn’t had a real shot at a roster spot yet that we’ve seen, and that seems unlikely to change before 2024 without a dire circumstance. The hope for the Falcons and Shaffer alike will be one more year gets him where they want him to be and allows him to take over as a long-term backup behind Chris Lindstrom and Matthew Bergeron.

Vrabel, the son of Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, has been the team’s de facto developmental tackle since joining up as an undrafted free agent this year. He predictably scuffled at times this summer—T.J. Watt ate him alive, which is not unexpected—but remains a player the Falcons want to develop as a potential swing tackle.

Wesley has played most positions along the line in a career that’s seen him join the XFL in between NFL stints, and it’s that versatility and fine play in the other league that likely makes him appealing to Atlanta. They’ll keep him on hand as an emergency option.

Horne was a key player for the Falcons last year, joining up as an undrafted free agent and eventually starting in the middle of an injury-decimated and thin defensive line. His fine work then and this summer made him somewhat of a surprising cut, but he should be the first man up if the team needs defensive line help again, given that we know he can do solid work.

London makes two Londons on the Falcons, which is fun. The former XFLer was one of the more impressive reserves vying for a role along the defensive line, showing great strength along the way, and would like Horne and possibly Davis mix in if the Falcons need help along the defensive line.

Turay is an experienced pass rusher who did enough to make this team, but fell victim to the numbers game. On the practice squad, he’ll bide his time until he might be needed, and should provide the Falcons with a solid rotational option at outside linebacker/defensive end if called upon.

Smith Jr. was one of several fairly impressive inside linebacker options this summer, and as an experienced special teamer who showed some upside on defense, he’s a good player to have around for an inside linebacker group that looks pretty thin at the moment.

Brooks couldn’t quite get a roster spot but figures to be around for a while. Showing off quality physicality and coverage chops despite a couple of mishaps—most notably against George Pickens, a nightmare matchup for an undrafted rookie—Brooks is a player the staff talked up and one who should be able to push his way into a long-term conversation around reserves in the secondary.

Finally, Abernathy provides the Falcons with an experienced special teamer who fared reasonably well as a safety over the summer, and would be up for a role if the team suffers any injuries among the safety group.