Falcons position battles to watch for in preseason finale against Cleveland Browns

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Arthur Smith has confirmed the Falcons starters will see action in Sunday’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns. Whether that is one series or three, there will be intrigue into a number of position groups up and down the roster.  I would say somewhere between 43 and 45 of the players are locks to make the final 53-man roster, which would leave somewhere between eight and ten roster spots available to grab with plenty of position battles up and down the roster.

Beginning on the offensive side of the ball, the starting left guard position battle will continue this Sunday between Josh Andrews and Jalen Mayfield. Neither has been overly impressive, so I’m not thrilled these are the options. However, I will surely be watching this one in particular on Sunday. I believe the Falcons will carry nine offensive linemen with Jason Spriggs and Willie Beavers rounding out that group, so no battle to watch there.

The TE4 battle will be interesting as it seems to be down to Parker Hesse and John Raine. Check out both players on special teams; these final roster spots are always dedicated to those who have upside on special teams.

Of course, Arthur Smith will carry four tight ends, which means the staff is only going to carry five wide receivers. Seeing as Tajae Sharpe has secured a roster spot, in my eyes, the WR4 job is down to six players — Frank Darby, Christian Blake, Juwan Green, Trevor Davis, Chris Rowland, and Antonio Nunn. Realistically, it is between Darby, Blake, and Rowland. Blake has been the most consistent at wide receiver, but I believe this spot on the roster has to be dedicated to the best special teams player — Rowland. If Avery Williams wins the punt returner job, it might be hard to keep Rowland, though.

I have seen enough of Qadree Ollison to pencil him in as third-string running back, leaving D’Onta Foreman and Caleb Huntley competing for the RB4 after the team waived Javian Hawkins. It would be wise to give these two carries with the first-team offensive line, so the staff can assess how well they run behind a legitimate line. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson should probably sit this one out.

Who can forget the most important position on the offense — the quarterback. Well, the backup quarterback in this case. Feilepe Franks and Josh Rosen will both see action, but I don’t think either of them could do enough to warrant keeping them. I believe the regular-season backup quarterback is currently on another team’s roster. That isn’t to say Franks or Rosen couldn’t be stashed on the practice squad.

Moving on to the defensive position battles, we will begin in the trenches. I see the defensive front as set. Among interior defenders and outside linebackers, the Falcons will more than likely be cutting Chris Slayton, Zac Dawe, Kobe Jones, and Tuzar Skipper — leaving 11 total across the defensive front. The second and third levels of the defense are going to shake out interestingly.

Four safety spots, three linebacker spots, and five cornerbacks are all penciled in on my 53-man roster. There are a few slots left, but the remaining handful will be fought out at these positions. The team could elect to carry five safeties, or five linebackers, or seven cornerbacks depending on who impresses on Sunday. Remember, these final roster spots are usually won on special teams, so watch out for these guys there — T.J. Green, Dorian Etheridge, Erroll Thompson, Emmanuel Ellerbee, JR Pace, Delrick Abrams, Chris Williamson, and Kendall Sheffield if he plays.

The only way I see the Falcons keeping six receivers is if they elect to keep Frank Darby or Christian Blake and Chris Rowland because Rowland beat one of the aforementioned names above out for a special teams role.


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