The second week of preseason is wrapping up as the Falcons will face the Dolphins Saturday night after two joint practices. There will be plenty to unpack after the game, and there is a bevy of roster spots still up for grabs. This is the second of three 53-man roster projections for the team; the last will happen after the final preseason game and before roster cuts, which are listed below.
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
McCarron and Feliepe Franks are battling for the backup spot, and after two disappointing outings against the Titans, the competition is fierce. Arthur Smith flirted with the idea of starting Franks in the Dolphins preseason game, which shows the chances of Franks making the roster are better than once thought. I’ll go with McCarron just because of his experience, but this could be a shocking development going forward.
Running Back — 4
Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javian Hawkins, Qadree Ollison
The running backs didn’t get much work in the first preseason game as the offense struggled to find their rhythm. For now, I will continue to project Hawkins and Ollison to make the roster over Caleb Huntley and D’Onta Foreman.
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
Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Tajae Sharpe
I am concerned with keeping Darby from my first projection because he hasn’t quite made the impression I thought he would. I still believe the Falcons will only keep five receivers, so Christian Blake and Chris Rowland will be battling Darby and Sharpe for the final spots. Sharpe has impressed thus far in training camp, so I’m giving him the nod for now, but if Blake continues to make plays, it’ll be hard to reason with keeping Darby.
Tight End — 4
Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Lee Smith, Parker Hesse
Outside of the offensive line, no position group struggled more than the tight ends. After the Jaeden Graham injury, I believed that it was Hesse’s job to lose, given his connection to the coaching staff. Still, the TE4 position is up for grabs, and I’ll go with Hesse because of his versatility.
Offensive Line — 9
Jake Matthews, Jalen Mayfield, Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Josh Andrews, Jason Spriggs, Willie Beavers; PUP Matt Gono
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
Dante Fowler Jr., Steven Means, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Adetokunbo Ogundeji
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
Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, Tyeler Davison, Ta’Quon Graham, Jonathan Bullard, John Cominsky
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
Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun, Mykal Walker, Brandon Copeland
After Dorian Etheridge and Erroll Thompson’s impressive performances against the Titans, I could see this group being expanded to five players. Still, that roster spot will have to come from somewhere, and I assume it’ll be a safety (I have five safeties). I will keep things the same, for now, but I will keep an eye on both of these undrafted rookies making a good case to make the final 53-man roster.
Cornerback — 6
A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, Fabian Moreau, Darren Hall, Avery Williams, Chris Williamson
The story of the cornerbacks is Kendall Sheffield and Chris Williamson. 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. I don’t think Falcons fans will ever see Sheffield in a Falcons uniform again after final cuts.
Safety — 5
Richie Grant, Erik Harris, Duron Harmon, Jaylinn Hawkins, TJ Green
If the staff goes with five inside linebackers, Green is the likely candidate to be cut. 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. Still, for now, I will continue to include Green in my 53-man projection — no changes.
Special Teams — 3
Younghoe Koo, Josh Harris, Dom Maggio
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.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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