When the Falcons take the field against Miami on Friday night, you’ll briefly see stars like Jaylen Waddle and Bradley Chubb. You’ll also see players (and handful of coaches) who once graced Atlanta’s roster or coaching staff.
Here are a few former Falcons who will be lining up and pacing the sidelines for the Dolphins on Friday night.
TE Eric Saubert
A late round draft pick under Thomas Dimitroff’s front office in 2017, Saubert was a little intriguing as a very athletic and tall tight end in a thin room. While he didn’t really spend much time in Atlanta, sticking around for just two seasons and soaking up plenty of special teams snaps, he has carved out a steady role on special teams across three other teams in recent years. He had a career year in Denver during that disastrous 2022 season, with 15 grabs for 148 yards and a touchdown in addition to handling nearly 70% of the special teams snaps.
Now in Miami, Saubert is currently listed as the No. 2 tight end behind Durham Smythe and should get a lot of playing time Friday against the team that drafted him. He’ll still primarily be used as a blocker and special teamer, one would expect.
LB Duke Riley
Speaking of special teams, it’s Duke Riley. The 2017 third round pick spent two seasons in Atlanta, just like Saubert, picking up four games in the 2019 season before the Falcons traded him to the Eagles for Jonathan Cyprien and a late round pick swap. An energy guy and a starter for the 2018 season, Riley went the way of fellow former third round pick Akeem Dent and and was eventually supplanted by Foye Oluokun as a starter down the stretch. In his one full year in Philadelphia, Riley logged 10 starts and still played a significant role on special teams, but a 14.1% missed tackle rate led to him not returning to the Eagles.
In Miami, though, Riley has found a home and a consistent role. A fill-in starter and essential special teamer, he’s cut his missed tackle rate and seems likely to be a top backup for the inside linebacker group again in 2023. Like Saubert, he’ll likely be out there a lot against the Falcons on Friday night.
CB Justin Bethel
A core special teamer wherever he goes, Bethel plays sparingly on defense, just like he did when he was in Atlanta back in 2018. That year, he played about two-thirds of the special teams snaps, serving as a gunner in Keith Armstrong’s final year as special teams coordinator.
The Dolphins apparently really loved that 2018 Falcons team.
Head Coach Mike McDaniel
McDaniel is one of three former offensive staff members from the 2016 Super Bowl team in Atlanta to have a head coaching job in the NFL, joining Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur. The 40-year-old was a young offensive assistant on Shanahan’s staff in 2015, re-uniting with Shanahan after spending time with him in Washington earlier in the decade. There, he and LaFleur were rising coaches for a Falcons team that scuffled in 2015 and took off in 2016, and he followed Shanahan to San Francisco in 2017 when he was hired as the 49ers head coach.
After spending a year as San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2021 following LaFleur’s departure for Green Bay, McDaniel was hired as the Dolphins’ head coach in 2022. He piloted a talented offense and defense to a 9-8 record despite a spate of injuries, and the team ultimately lost a squeaker to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. McDaniel will hope to enjoy the kind of success he saw in Atlanta and San Francisco in Miami.
Assistant Quarterbacks Coach Chandler Henley
Henley overlapped with Arthur Smith in Tennessee, serving as a quality control coach there before coming over with Smith to Atlanta as an assistant offensive line coach for the team in 2021 under Dwayne Ledford. He left in 2022 for the assistant quarterbacks coach job in Miami, which he still holds.
Offensive Assistant Ricardo Allen
Last on the list, but first in our hearts. Allen was drafted by the Falcons as a cornerback in 2014, cut, and placed on the practice squad for most of his rookie season. When a new coaching staff showed up in 2015, Allen blossomed as a safety, becoming a full time starter for the defense over the next five seasons. Injuries took a bite out of his career in Atlanta—he only played in three games in 2018—but Allen was one of Dan Quinn’s essential men as a leader and as a steady presence at the back end of a defense that saw injuries and turmoil throughout his tenure. He finished his Falcons career 22nd in interceptions all-time and 26th in solo tackles, as well as 15th in pass deflections.
Following that run with the Falcons, Allen played a single year with the Bengals and was part of their 2021 Super Bowl run before hanging it up. Still young, Allen decided to transition to a coaching career, spending 2022 with Miami as a special teams assistant before transitioning to an offensive assistant in 2023. Always a bright player, Allen figures to have a long and fruitful career as a coach in the NFL, and we’ll get to see him briefly on Friday night.