Beware the Turk
The best time of the year for us football junkies: 3 days away from Thursday Night College Football on ESPN, 5 days away from College Kickoff Weekend, and 13 days away from Birds-‘Fins in the Terror-Dome. The eminent start of the NFL season brings a very nerve-racking time for many players fighting for their professional lives across the league. Players known as bubble candidates will be putting their absolute best foot forward in the remaining week and final preseason game to ensure they get one of those crucial final spots on the 53 man protected roster. Players will be looking over their shoulder as the final cut down day of Saturday, September 5th approaches. This is the day the teams must trim their roster to get to 53 players. These players that are on the bubble will be looking out for the “Turk” as he’s referred to around the league. The slogan “Beware the Turk” has developed as the final cutdown approaches. Thomas George has a more in-depth article on the slogan from NFL.com.
Active, Inactive, and Protected Rosters
The rules can be quite convoluted and complex when it comes to a NFL team’s roster throughout the season. A very quick breakdown of the surrounding rules. Every NFL team can have no more than 53 players on their roster at any one time throughout the season. Changes can be made as often as possible, at least to common knowledge. Teams have to submit an active roster for each game which can only include 45 players allowed to actually play in the game. The remaining eight players that are declared inactive cannot play in that game, but are protected by that team and cannot be picked up by other NFL teams. Teams may decide to rotate between active and inactive players based on strategy or opponents they are facing that week. In other words, NFL teams have a 53 man protected roster in which they can shuffle around as they choose.
In addition to the 53 man protected roster, NFL teams can designate players to a practice squad which contains 8 players that can be used for scout team purposes or a sort of “insurance” policy in case anyone on their protected roster gets injured or implodes on the field. However, players on practice squads are unprotected and can be claimed by any other NFL team at any time. When teams want to claim other squad’s players off practice squads, they must be signed onto that new teams protected roster. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, there are several rules associated with practice squads. If a player is claimed off a practice squad, it must be done so at least 6 days before the team’s next game. Players cannot have played more than nine regular season games or been on the active roster for an entire year, nor can players be allowed to spend more than two seasons on the same team’s squad unless that team’s active roster never dips below 53 players. More in-depth description from eHow.com on practice squad rules.
And on the note of discussing final rosters, its time for the 1st Annual Bird Cage Friendly Roster Spot Competition. Use your best prognostication skills, training camp updates, players performances, and overall Falcons knowledge to be crowned Bird Cage Roster Spot Champ. Similar to the Bird Cage Mock Draft Competition back in April, the Roster Spot Competition involves a very simple formula: each correct choice nets 1 point and each correct practice squad selection will net a half point. Submit your final choices for the Atlanta Falcons 2009 Final Roster and all will be saved to the hard drive and analyzed on Sunday after the final bell tolls. Make some tough decisions and imagine if its difficult for you than how hard it will be for the coaches. Deadline for final submittal is Thursday at 11:59 pm. Describe each pick if desired, but not required. Good Luck.
Last Year’s Final Roster Prior to 1st Game
Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, DJ Shockley
Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling, Ovie Mughelli
Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Brian Finneran, Laurent Robinson, Adam Jennings
Ben Hartsock, Justin Peele, Jason Rader, Marcus Pollard
OL (9 Total – 4 Tackles, 3 Centers, 2 Guards)
Sam Baker, Todd Weiner, Tyson Clabo, Quinn Ojinnaka, Justin Blaylock, Harvey Dahl, Todd McClure, Ben Wilkerson, Alex Stepanovich
Jonathan Babineaux, Grady Jackson, Kindal Moorehead, Jason Jefferson
John Abraham, Jamaal Anderson, Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis, Simon Fraser
Michael Boley, Curtis Lofton, Keith Brooking, Coy Wire, Stephen Nicholas
Chris Houston, Brent Grimes, Chevis Jackson, Dominique Foxworth, David Irons
Lawyer Milloy, Thomas DeCoud, Erik Coleman, Antoine Harris, Jamaal Fudge
Jason Elam, Michael Koenen
2008 Practice Squad
Brandon Miller – DE
D’Anthony Batiste – OG
Eric Brock – S
Eric Weems – WR
Glenn Sharpe – CB
Keith Zinger – TE
Kenneth Darby – RB
Sean Conover – DE
1) Matt Ryan
Franchise Starting QB
2) Chris Redman
Cemented his job as Falcons premier backup in great performance against Rams. Worth the high price tag of $4.5 million a year, giving Falcons fans relief knowing that Redman can play in case of emergency.
3) John Parker Wilson
Showed a great ability that he can be groomed as a future project, coming in and looking extremely comfortable running the third team offense. Not dazzling numbers, but no mistakes as an undrafted rookie free agent, and excellent efficiency at driving the Falcons down the field. *(See sad decision on Hometown Hero DJ Shockley below).
Running Backs (4)
4) Michael Turner
Pro-Bowl lock starting RB
5) Jerious Norwood
Lightning to Turner’s Thunder. May be last year in red and black
6) Jason Snelling
Had an excellent preseason showing speed, power, and a great ability as a third down and goal line back. May move into #2 RB spot if Norwood leaves in free agency
7) Ovie Mughelli
One of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL
*(See another tough decision on Hometown Hero Thomas Brown below)
Wide Receivers (6)
8.) Roddy White
Franchise wide receiver locked up as a Falcon virtually for his career
9) Michael Jenkins
Starting wide receiver who is coming into his own opposite Roddy
10) Brian Finneran
Looks to be current starting slot receiver and reminded everyone of his ability with his nice touchdown catch and run against the Chargers. Sure handed, red zone threat, and special teams ace
11) Eric Weems
Great story of hard work and perseverance. Got his opportunity and made the most of it. Not the flashiest name, but has had one of the best preseasons of any Falcon. Likely already safe, but the beautiful game-winning touchdown catch was icing on the roster spot cake. Looks to be in the Falcons future plans even beyond this year
12) Marty Booker
Showed flashes of his old self throughout preseason making some nice catch and runs in several games. Seemed to have more upside as a receiver than Ferguson, even though maybe not in terms of special teams. Age of 33 is a perfect one year fill-in for Harry Douglas coming back from injury next year.
13) Troy Bergeron
First big surprise pick. After trying for years and years to make an NFL roster, Bergeron finally earns a spot with the Falcons, finishing a feel good story of hard work and determination. Excellent slot receiver who runs good routes and has excellent hands. At 6′2, 195 maybe a future replacement for Brian Finneran when he hangs up his cleats.
Offensive Line (9 Total – 5 Tackles, 2 Guards, 2 Centers)
14) Sam Baker
Anchor left tackle for the future
15) Justin Blaylock
Road-grading left guard who is young and continues his growth
16) Todd McClure
Grizzled veteran center who still has game at the young age of 32. O-Line captain.
17) Harvey Dahl
One of the toughest and violent guards in the league. Forms the great “Nasty Boys” tandem with Tyson Clabo on the right side. Locking him up to long-term deal is a high priority
18) Tyson Clabo
Big, strong right tackle who has been developed and groomed by the Falcons. Great young tackle that completes the “Nasty Boys” tandem with Dahl. Along with Dahl, locking up Tyson Clabo is the highest season priority
19) Brett Romberg
Signed in the offseason and showed why he looks to be McClure’s replacement when he hangs up his cleats. Offense didn’t miss a beat when he was in the game against the Rams. Another great free agent pickup by TD. Can play guard in a pinch.
20) Will Svitek
Another OL pickup via free agency by TD. Looks to be an excellent option and insurance for Baker’s injury history. Extremely young at 27 and appears to be in the Falcons long term future
21) Garrett Reynolds
The only offensive draft pick of 2009 hasn’t disappointed in his rookie debut. Showed reasons why he may start one day in the near future in the NFL. Fits the big, nasty style of play Coach Smith and Coach Boudreau desires.
22) Quinn Ojinnaka
Versatility is the key. Taking only 9 OL requires at least one or two lineman to be able to play several positions and Ojinnaka’s versatility on being able to play guard and tackle look to give him the edge in the last spot. Possibly moving to guard permanently with Reynolds and Svitek.
Tight Ends (3)
23) Tony Gonzalez
Future Hall of Fame Tight End at the top of his game, enough said.
24) Justin Peele
Superb complement to Gonzalez and looks to be featured a lot with many two tight end sets. Likely will see many targets with TG getting doubled up.
25) Keith Zinger
Next big shocker. Zinger was drafted in the seventh round last year by TD and failed to make the active roster, but was placed on the practice squad for an entire year. Always known as a blocker, but showed his ability to catch on several occasions in preseason games. A younger Ben Hartsock. A need to get younger and develop at tight end with Gonzalez and Peele both being over 30.
Defensive Tackles (5)
26) Jonathan Babineaux
Starting defensive tackle that looks to benefit from more athleticism from the other DT spot.
27) Peria Jerry
1st round draft pick that has been slow adjusting to the pro game, but hopefully will make necessary corrections and live up to his first round status.
28) Trey Lewis
Another great feel good story. Lewis looks to be the lead candidate for the starting DTackle spot opposite Babineaux. Appears to be healthy after two knee injuries. Big, athletic run stuffer.
29) Thomas Johnson
Had one of the best camps of any defensive tackle. Drew raves in the offseason and translated into the preseason games. High motor, tough defender that looks to be in the DT rotation.
30) Vance Walker
Uncommon to keep 5 defensive tackles, but Walker is too good to pass up as a building block for the future. Has had an excellent camp and preseason, and great insurance to Trey Lewis and Peria Jerry’s injury history. Not a candidate for practice squad, because he will be snatched up faster than any player. If only one spot, he gets the nod over Thomas Johnson.
Defensive Ends (5)
31) John Abraham
Pro-Bowl caliber defensive end and leader of the defense.
32) Kroy Biermann
Looks be starting sooner rather than later. Has one of the highest motors and hustle playing style of any Falcon. Should be in competition to start. Has had one of the best camps of any DE on the roster.
33) Chauncey Davis
Signed to a 4 year resign in the offseason. Played fairly vanilla throughout the preseason. Has had an enormous opportunity to steal the starting job, and still might, but needs to get back to his old self.
34) Lawrence Sidbury Jr.
Proved why he was considered a steal in the fourth round, collaring two sacks in one game against the Rams. Will see much playing this year, and may even snatch a starting spot before its all over. Abe’s future replacement.
35) Jamaal Anderson
Trials and tribulations have been well-documented. Just doesn’t possess the killer instinct of all-star DEnds. May be used as a DT in future, thus cutting one of the above DTs. Won’t be cut outright due to enormous cap hit, but don’t totally rule out a potential trade to a 3-4 run defense team.
36) Curtis Lofton
Biggest building block for defense. One of the best, young LBs in the league
37) Mike Peterson
Offseason acquisition that will taking Keith Brooking’s old spot. Seems to have enough gas left in the tank.
38) Stephen Nicholas
Starting strong-side LB that has shown flashes, but needs consistency and a breakout game.
39) Coy Wire
Special teams captain that took over Michael Boley’s position as a starter last year. Versatile LB that is great run stuffer and even better special teams player
40) Tony Gilbert
Had one of the best camps of any LB and cemented his spot by playing lights out in pretty much every game he’s been in. Interception return for a TD didn’t hurt.
41) Chris Houston
Had the worst performance imaginable, but a little confidence boost can get him back up to par.
42) Brent Grimes
Determination and pure grit has led him to steal the starting CB spot…..again.
43) Chris Owens
Has had an excellent camp as a true rookie and may be starting sooner rather than later.
44) Chevis Jackson
Even though not likely in running for starting CB job, looks to have the nickel job sewn up.
45) William Middleton
Hasn’t stood out as a true rookie in camp, but appears to get a lot of work on special teams, may see action in quarter or dime situations, and great development project
46) Open CB spot
Per Dimitroff’s remarks after the Chargers D-secondary meltdown, this looks to be filled via free agency, other team cuts, or trade. Maybe Chris McAllister
47) Erik Coleman
Starting strong safety and leader of the secondary.
48) Thomas DeCoud
Starting free safety that looks to maximize his potential in his new position.
49) William Moore
Although seemingly injury-prone, its just a matter of time before this playmaker starts seeing the field. Possibly could lay LB in a pinch.
50) Eric Brock
The hardest selection of all. Basically can flip a coin between Brock, Jamaal Fudge, and Antoine Harris. Fudge has the run support, Harris is a special teams stud, but Brock has the most upside, is the youngest, and had a bit better camp on defense than the other two. Out of practice squad eligibility
Special Teams (3)
51) Jason Elam
Starting kicker and potential Hall of Famer.
52) Michael Koenen
So good a punter and kickoff specialist that the Falcons burned a franchise tag on him.
53) Mike Schneck
Long snapper that’s certainly an essential part of every team.
Practice Squad (8)
Aaron Kelly – WR; Great long-term project, potential replacement for Finneran
Thomas Brown – RB; Couldn’t kick the injury bug, may get picked up quick
Jose Valdez – G; Best of young guards that may even take Ojinnaka’s spot
Michael Butterworth – T; Had a good preseason, but too crowded at tackle. Could move to G.
Antoine Harris – S; May not be eligible for practice squad
Spencer Adkins – LB; Very raw, but high ceiling skill set
Glenn Sharpe – CB; Second year on practice squad. Adds DB depth.
Willie Evans – DE; Potential talent that can possibly be groomed for the future.
Tough, Hard Losses
As much as it pains to say, DJ’s time has run out in red and black. Perhaps suffering from the “Francouer Syndrome” in being a hometown hero that will forever be loved as a North Clayton High Standout and University of Georgia Champion, but looks like its time for DJ to get a shot with a different team. Could never find consistency that he needed. Was SEC Champion and MVP, more than you can say for #1 Overall Pick Stafford or John Parker Wilson.
Had a great preseason in terms of special teams, but didn’t produce enough on the field at WR. Troy Bergeron gets the nod being younger, quicker, and more productive. Booker is a perfect stop-gap for Harry Douglas’ return.
This may be a non-issue as he could easily make the team, but the trade for Gonzalez presses a need to get younger at TE. Zinger is a drafted product who is a younger version of Hartsock.
Very unfortunate with the Lisfranc injury and never really getting a chance to show his stuff, but the secondary is in too much dire straits to count on an injury-prone DB. Versatility at CB and S may put him on the roster.
After several years in a Falcons uniform, the additions of Romberg and Reynolds forces him out.
Concussion hampered him before he could ever get started. Couldn’t show enough in preseason to warrant a spot. If the Falcons elect to carry a 6th LB, he’s in.
Practice roster candidate. Just could never kick the injury bug and find consistency. Kept waiting for the big breakout, but was never had. Likely snatched up quick by another team.
The superb play of Eric Weems and good play of Bergeron eliminated spots before Williams could claim one.
Sorry it took a year to read, but this should be fun. Look over the roster and offer up your best 53 man squad, include practice squad if desired. Winner gets bragging rights (wish we had a prize, but unfortunately not). Good luck and have fun!!!