The Falcons are in the meat of training camp and set for their first preseason contest this Friday against the Dolphins, with a set of joint practices leading up to the exhibition contest.
I have already put out my first 53-man roster projection, so check that out if you haven’t. It led me to think, which position battles are there? Well, when you go through them, there are quite a few. So, let’s discuss.
WR5/6: Frank Darby, Penny Hart, Slade Bolden, Keilahn Harris,
Xavier Malone, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Chris Blair
Hart and Darby likely have the best chances. The former can provide value as a returner, and the latter is the most experienced. Darby is also having a great camp, according to Arthur Smith.
Malone and Harris are undrafted free agents but are intriguing options that have established themselves as legitimate threats to making the roster via special teams.
Your guess is as good as mine, though.
LG: Matt Hennessy and Matthew Bergeron
This one may be the most impactful position battle. Hennessy was given the nod to begin training camp, seemingly because of his experience. However, an injury has kept the veteran out of practice, opening a path for Bergeron to run with the first team.
The Falcons traded up and drafted the Syracuse tackle to play him at guard. He projects well and looks really good as a run blocker, but I think a lot of it depends on Hennessy’s timeline to return from injury. Bergeron should be given the starting spot if it’s neck-and-neck. We’ll see how each looks in the preseason.
OL8/9: Jalen Mayfield, Ryan Neuzil, Barry Wesley, Kyle Hinton, Jonotthan Harrison, Jovaughn Gwyn, Josh Miles, Tyler Vrabel
This one is another that could go either way. Hennessy or Bergeron will be the first interior reserve, but there’s no telling after that. Mayfield has bounced back if you ask the coaching staff, but I’m not sure.
Greenidge was the best bet because of his versatility but a significant injury has put that prospect to bed. Welsey offers similar versatility, and Neuzil seems to be a coach’s favorite. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons brought in another reserve lineman with more experience than what currently resides in Flowery Branch.
DL: Timothy Horne, Joe Gaziano, Justin Ellis, LaCale London
These four are maybe battling for one spot, but I would almost guarantee Horne’s spot is locked up. He provides a lot as a run stuffing nose tackle — something the group is missing with Grady Jarrett, David Onyemata, Calais Campbell, Ta’Quon Graham, and Zach Harrison. Gaziano is likely battling with Ade Ogundeji for a roster spot along the defensive front, even though the pair provide different skill sets. He’s been steady for the Chargers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he sticks. Ellis and Davis are long shots but should be watched during the preseason.
LB4/5: Nate Landman, Tae Davis, Mike Jones Jr.
Some believe Nate Landman is already LB4, but I don’t think so. In fact, there might only be four linebackers kept. There’s a chance the Falcons keep two behind Troy Andersen, Kaden Elliss, and Mykal Walker because of special teams value, though.
Landman, Davis, and Jones Jr. will compete for one or two spots, with the difference coming in the game’s third phase. Given his past experiences, I’d give the nod to Davis right now, but that could change soon in the preseason.
CB2/5/6: Dee Alford, Clark Phillips, Mike Hughes, Darren Hall, Tre Flowers, Cornell Armstrong, Natrone Brooks
Before Jeff Okudah‘s injury, it would’ve been just CB5/6, but now, there’s an opening opposite A.J. Terrell for at least a few games.
It’s a large group vying for that spot and would seem that one of Tre Flowers, Dee Alford, Mike Hughes, or Darren Hall will get it. Flowers and Hughes worked in place of Okudah when he initially went down, so I assume they have the leg up. However, Hall has experience and is reportedly having a really good camp.
Moreover, Alford’s emergence cannot be understated; he’s a real threat to start at nickel. Phillips will also battle Alford and is a lock to make the roster. So, that leaves Cornell Armstrong and Natrone Brooks on the outside looking in.
This one is going to come down to the wire, and there’s not a bad way for the Falcons to go.
S4: Micah Abernathy, DeMarcco Hellams
Micah Abernathy will battle Hellams for the final roster spot at safety. Once again, like every final roster spot, it will be decided by the value in the game’s third phase. However, Abernathy has mostly taken the second-team reps, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Falcons go with him over Hellams.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire