The third week of preseason is here as the Falcons will face the Browns Sunday night in the team’s finale before the final 53-man rosters are constructed. There are still roster battles taking place up and down the depth chart — backup quarterback, fourth running back, fifth wide receiver, starting left guard, fourth linebacker, and sixth cornerback. The final cutdown will come sometime before next Tuesday’s 4:00 pm deadline. This is my third and final 53-man roster projection for the Falcons:
August 17 — four days after the Falcons’ first preseason game
NFL teams are required to cut down to 85 players.
August 24 — three days after the second preseason game
NFL teams are required to cut down to 80 players.
August 31 — two days after the third preseason game
NFL teams are required to cut down to 53 players
Offense — 25
Quarterback — 2
Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks are battling for the backup spot, and after two disappointing outings against the Titans and Dolphins, Franks has clearly shown he isn’t the answer. There is a chance that Rosen shows enough to win the job, but with such limited time to learn the offense’s nuances, I doubt there are enough reps for him. More than likely, I believe a quarterback who is not on the roster will be Ryan’s regular-season backup — Trevor Siemian, Brian Hoyer, Chase Daniel, Brandon Allen.
Running Back — 4
The final roster spot at running back is between Huntley and D’Onta Foreman after the team waived undrafted free agent Javian Hawkins. Both have a similar running style, which shouldn’t be surprising as Arthur Smith clearly has a type. Huntley had an impressive performance in last week’s preseason matchup against the Dolphins, showcasing some burst that most people didn’t know he had. Foreman would have to have quite the game Sunday night to unseat Huntley.
Fullback — 1
MAKE FULLBACKS GREAT AGAIN. Arthur Smith still uses a traditional fullback, so I fully expect him to demand Fontenot keep one on the roster. Keith Smith seems to be that guy thus far in camp, but Fontenot may choose to keep an extra tight end to replace a less-versatile fullback.
Wide Receiver — 5
This will make some eyes widen; I didn’t include Frank Darby. I believe the fourth position on the depth chart is Sharpe’s to lose. The last roster spot could go one of three ways. Blake, because of his repertoire with the quarterbacks; he’s clearly impressed the most out of those battling for the final spot. Darby because he is a member of this regime’s first draft class and comes with upside. Chris Rowland because of his value on special teams. I am extremely tempted to go with Rowland because of that special teams factor.
Tight End — 4
The final tight end position is down to Hesse and John Raine. Hesse has H-back versatility, can contribute on special teams, and is a better blocker than Raine. Raine is a better receiver and can also contribute on special teams. This battle might come down to potential because they’re both similarly underdeveloped.
Offensive Line — 9
Bryce Hargrove and Willie Beavers are the only change because of the latter’s appearance in multiple instances with the second-team offense at both right and left tackle. Beavers started the Titans preseason game at left tackle and only had one real blunder, but the offensive front is in trouble if he is the team’s swing tackle. I don’t see it that way, though. Spriggs will be the team’s swing tackle, and he’s more than capable of stepping into a starting role for a couple of weeks, but if he’s going to be relied on more than that… Matt Ryan’s jersey is going to be dirty.
Defense — 25
EDGE — 4
Fowler will be the team’s most consistent pass rusher, but the other three will certainly be in a rotation between themselves. Ogundeji has been the surprise of the 2021 draft class and has earned first-team reps. I believe a bit more in this group after joint practices with the Dolphins, but it must be noted that Miami’s offensive line is a bottom-five unit in the league. Still, the Falcons defensive front whooped the Dolphins, which is all you can ask for. No changes from the first 53-man roster projection.
Interior Defensive Line — 6
It seems that Bullard will be on the edge of the roster in this group, but the rest of this group seems to be set in stone. Davidson is living up to his second-round draft slot but is dealing with an injury, leaving a window for Bullard and Graham to step into. Cominsky is dealing with a concussion, so the preseason roster is a bit thin on the interior. Nothing changes from the first projection.
Linebacker — 4
There is one roster spot for a wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, or safety that will likely be decided by what they can contribute on special teams. The staff could choose to go with two of Frank Darby, Christian Blake, or Chris Rowland. They could also go with one of Erroll Thompson, Dorian Etheridge, or Emmanuel Ellerbee. I don’t see the defense having seven cornerbacks, but the seventh would have to contribute on special teams. The team has four safeties locked down; the fifth could be T.J. Green, who can play both defensive backfield positions. Still, I see the Falcons keeping just four linebackers because Copeland can play both off-ball and outside linebacker.
Cornerback — 6
Kendall Sheffield gets left out of this group because he just hasn’t been available. I had Sheffield making the first 53-man roster because I figured he would make it back on the field. He still hasn’t been practicing, and Williamson is making the most of his opportunities.
Safety — 5
I have that last roster spot going to T.J. Green. He is a capable special teamer and has familiarity with the coaching staff, so his path to the roster is much easier than Etheridge or Thompson. I will continue to include Green in my 53-man projection.
Special Teams — 3
Nizialek didn’t impress me in the first preseason game, so I will go with Dom Maggio as his replacement. He’s been dealing with an injury, which is why I went with the former Georgia Bulldog instead. This battle for the punting job is far from over and is one of the competitions that will go until the final cuts.