This post came out right around the time of the actual cuts and roster. Apologies on the incorrect nature.
It’s the time fellow Bird Cage brothers and sisters: time to predict what the Falcons final 53 man roster will look like. Most of the positions are already locked up, but there’s a few areas that could hold some shocks in store. Do your best to guess what players will don the red and black for another year, those that may be relegated to the Taxi Squad, as longtime Cage member Unca’ Bob has termed it, and who gets an outright pink slip. Bird Cage’s weak attempt:
No description needed here. The franchise quarterback has looked as good as he ever has since coming to Atlanta as a rookie and winning rookie of the year. Not only does he look more confident as a quarterback, the new offensive system really seems catered to his skill sets. If the offensive line can get it together, the sky’s the limit for Ryan and the Falcons.
Perhaps the biggest star of preseason is the new backup quarterback. Originally, fans were just finally ready to have someone to develop behind Matt Ryan as a valuable backup to groom and maybe even have some trade bait if he turns out really well. Not only has Davis locked up the backup QB spot, but he may even have a future as the Falcons starter post-Matt Ryan if they can hang onto him that long. This guy has superb talent and potential and it’s very fitting that Davis is backing up Matt Ryan in Atlanta, just as he did at Boston College. Don’t buy the Luke McCown hype. If they wanted a McCown type backup, why go through the trouble of letting Chris Redman go?
Running Backs (5)
Sure, we can debate all day long on whether should play so prominently in the offense and whether his touches should be limited, but it’s all for naught for 2012. Turner will not only be back, but evidently will be the feature back as well, regardless if that’s the way it should be.
Most fans favorite running back seems to just fit so much better in the Falcons new offense. He can do it all, including running, catching, and blocking. Fans fell that Quizz can take over for Turner sooner rather than later. The future is bright for Rodgers, but he’s got to get on the field, right?
Suffered an injury during preseason, so we haven’t see a lot of him in this new offense, which would seem to fit him pretty well. Snelling will get his touches when he gets healthy again and is a valuable part to the offense.
The blazing speed merchant is making fans want to see him get more touches. Smith may not be the most polished running back in the NFL, but he adds a much needed element of pure speed to the running back mix and will be a key on special teams. There’s a very outside chance they elect to go with Nance instead of Smith, but don’t count on it.
This is a complete toss-up after Ovie Mughelli was released (still the right move) and the best fullback in the draft Bradie Ewing was lost for the season with a major knee injury. Although Cox looked pretty good in relief last year, he hasn’t blown away the fullback competition this preseason, but he seems the safer pick. Hopefully, the fullback won’t play a major role in the new diversified offense.
Wide Receiver (5)
The All-Pro still leads this extremely talented receiving corps and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Julio may be the future, but Roddy is the still leader of this wide receiving unit and for good reason.
The future of the Falcons receiving corps looks ready to set the NFL in fire. Enough said.
HD finally may be used as he’s supposed to and his skill set is taken advantage of in this new offense. One of the most angering things to fans is the failure of Mularkey to integrate Douglas into the gameplans along with White, Jones, and Tony Gonzalez.
There’s been some rumblings about Meier possibly being on the block with his inability to stay healthy, seemingly ever, but ultimately Meier deserves one final chance to show his potential that fans have been so excited about for so long. This appears to be his last big chance to get it done on the field instead of the infirmary.
This has been one of the biggest battles of any recent camp and could go any number of ways. Cone for several reasons. He had one of the best training camps of any player before the games started. He made the roster late last year. And even though the games he played weren’t spectacular, he simply has too much potential to not take a chance on. His strength, speed, and size were on display Thursday night against the Jags, where he caught a quick pass, made a move and easily took it the distance for touchdown. Tim Toone and Marcus Jackson made a late surge, but Cone is the guy.
Offensive Line (9)
Even though he’s up there in age, McClure gets credit for looking up to the task in maybe his final year as an Atlanta Falcon and maybe the NFL. There was some readiness to start the youth movement on the offensive line, but McClure deserves the spot. Question is whether his body can take a 16 game season?
He’s been one of the more stable elements to an offensive line in constant flux the last few years and the only Falcons OL to make the Pro Bowl in the Smith Era, but he looked pretty bad in the Falcons main preseason game against the Dolphins. Hopefully, it was just a bad night.
The ultimate unsung hero maybe on the entire team. He’s not the biggest name or the flashiest player, but he’s probably the most consistent player on the entire team, not to mention the offensive line.
You got to give the guy some credit, he’s endured more criticism than any other Falcon the last four years. He’s taken it well and seems to be healthy and “so far” is looking better than he has in a long while. Lamar Holmes has looked pretty darn good in limited action, so this may be Baker’s last year in red and black. Here’s hoping it’s a good one.
Konz or Reynolds in at right guard? Many fans are ready for the Konz Era to jumpstart the youth movement on the OL, but it appears that Reynolds is the leading candidate to start the season. He does look better than last year, but he’s no long-term answer there regardless.
Even though most want Konz to get the nod, it seems as though he is trailing Reynolds at the moment to start the season. He may be in line to take over for McClure at center after all in 2013. Hard to believe that one of the best OL in the 2012 draft will be on the bench for a pretty average Falcons offensive line.
Many hoped that Johnson would win the job at right guard and allow Konz to take over at center. He was excellent while at Alabama, but for whatever reason, that has not translated in the NFL. He’s definitely a keeper, but two straight years in failing to win a starting spot in open competitions is not a good sign. He’s very versatile and that will definitely make him a good backup.
The former UNLV Rebel may eventually take over for Todd McClure at center after all, but not this year. Hawley had his chance, perhaps, but the “open” competition never seemed to even give Hawley a chance. The same goes for right guard and, for that matter left tackle. Maybe it’s unfair, but the wide open competition has seemed to yield the exact same starting offensive line as last year. Go figure.
If there was any worry about where he was drafted or the injury, Holmes has helped to ease some of those concerns. Holmes has done a pretty darn good job of protecting the quarterbacks when he’s been on the field. First of all, the guy is enormous and really agile for a guy that big. He’s definitely got some work to do, but if he continues to improve, it’s hard to think that Holmes won’t be starting at left tackle in 2013.
Tight Ends (3)
The greatest tight end to ever play the game. Enough said. Maybe he’ll come back for one more year in 2013, it sure would be nice.
Palmer has had a good preseason and, even though he may not make fans soon forget about Gonzalez when he hangs it up, he is proving to be an excellent #2 tight end and maybe more. He’s no Rob Gronkowski, but he’s a throwback tight end who is a good blocker first, but can get open and catch the ball.
One of the biggest and most discussed battles heading into training camp was the #3 tight end spot with all the undrafted free agents, it was thought to be an excellent competition. That surely has not been the case. Lamarck Brown probably gets this one by default, but he certainly didn’t reach up and take it by the throat. Brown evidently has potential, but he hasn’t looked great in the games. He may just be holding it for a year, because this has to be at the top of the draft board in 2013.
Defensive Ends (5)
Fans were happy to see Abe come back and finish his career in Atlanta and will be headed for the Ring of Honor sooner rather than later. The plethora of talent at defensive end combined with Mike Nolan’s new defensive scheme could keep Abraham at the top of his game for a few more years.
Fans keep waiting to see the “real” Ray Edwards, but he was never an elite defensive end even in his heyday in Minnesota. Edwards has shown glimpses and is very stout against the run. The scheme should help Edwards bounce back closer to his 8 sack standard instead of his injury-riddled 3 sack campaign in 2011.
Biermann appears to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Mike Nolan’s new scheme. He has been seen with both his hand in the dirt and standing up. He’s looked more productive than every other defensive end not named Abraham. He could be supplanting Edwards if he continues his excellence from preseason.
Sidbury’s had an up and down preseason, but the talent is definitely there, at least for another year. If Nolan can’t get the best out of Sidbury, he may be spending his last year in Atlanta with Jonathan Massaquoi nipping at his heels. He definitely can rush the passer, but can he finally turn the corner to his long-awaited breakout? We’ll see in 2012 .
The rookie has shown glimpses this season of a burst and ability to rush the passer. He’s definitely making the roster and may even find some snaps in his first year. The question is whether or not he can have his break out, or linger on the roster without much production for several years. Cliff Matthews is tough to see go, but it’s doubtful they’ll keep 6 defensive ends on the active roster, and may even end up back on the practice squad if rules permit.
Defensive Tackles (5)
He may be over 30, but he’s looked more like his old self this preseason. This position should be OK in 2012, but most of that depends on Babineaux’s ability to stay healthy. With Corey Peters being out for 6 games, Peria Jerry’s injury history, and Vance Walker getting dinged up in training camp, this is by far the most tenuous positions. As long as Babineaux can stay fit, defensive tackle should be OK.
Jerry’s on the verge of making the best comeback of any Falcon in recent history. He’s looked as good as any defensive linemen this year both against the run and getting into the backfield. It couldn’t come at a better time with all the injury issues at DT. Fans are crossing fingers that Jerry finally gets his due.
Walker may be the most underrated player on defense. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has been invaluable in the DT rotation. With Peter’s injury, Walker slides up to the #3 defensive tackle position and should be considered a starter with Smith’s rotation philosophy. He’s always come through and he may even be due for a big year.
The beginning of camp saw Robertson possibly on the bubble to even make the roster. Roberston has not disappointed and has looked good in his rookie year to date. He’s a big and strong defensive tackle that can even add more weight to his frame. Even when Peters comes back, Robertson has not only cemented a roster spot, but likely will see some snaps in his first year.
Micanor Regis / Waiver Wire Pickup
This is one of the most unlikely of picks and probably won’t come to fruition, but the Falcons must include some type of emergency depth at defensive tackle. Regis hasn’t been the biggest star of preseason, but he’s shown upside and happens to be at a critically tenuous position. If they don’t feel Regis has much immediate impact potential as a rookie, they may decide to scan the waiver wire for a veteran cut from another team. Hard to believe the Falcons will go with only 4 defensive tackles where all 4 have either had injuries this preseason (Walker) or injuries in the past (Babineaux, Jerry, Robertson in college).
Spoon is the new and future leader of the defense and could be well on his way to the Pro Bowl sooner rather than later.
Fans were a little worried with linebacker depth while Nicholas has battled injury issues. He has soothed those concerns and looked pretty darn good this preseason. The former South Florida standout may be flying most under the radar for a big year under new DC Mike Nolan.
The former Dawg has had a mixed bag of success in his first preseason as the Falcons starting middle linebacker. The concussion may have set him back some, but Dent showed against the Jaguars that, while he may need work in pass coverage, he’s a thumper that can do the job of Curtis Lofton for about 90% less cost.
On pure production and capability, Peterson really should be on the bubble, especially with his performance against the Jaguars. There’s a reason they decided not to bring him back until they became somewhat desperate. He’s a great character guy and outstanding locker room leader, but his play is rapidly declining and going with talent over experience would make sense. However, it’s hard to believe Smith won’t roll with the experience and leadership.
He started at linebacker in place of Stephen Nicholas in the playoffs and has shown potential. He didn’t wow in preseason, but he’s a good solid backup and special teams player that has made the team and contributed every single year since being drafted in the 6th round in 2009.
Along with Jerry, James is looking to finish one of the better comeback stories in Falcons history. James has bounced on and off the roster, on and off the practice squad, been released, and rehired several times. He looked pretty good this preseason and someone driven to make the team. He wasn’t as stellar against the Jaguars, but preseason being a body of work finally gets him a long-awaited roster spot.
Obvious lock. Numerous time Pro Bowler, All-Pro, and Super Bowl winner. Still has some gas left, just got to watch jumping those routes all the time.
Hopefully, this isn’t Grimes last year in Atlanta, but that’s a distinct possibility. Appears to have one corner slot locked down as Dunta Robinson has moved inside.
There’s definitely a pep in DRob’s step after moving inside to the nickel and being used in a more aggressive manner by Nolan. May be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Nolan’s new scheme.
What has happened to Franks? Filled with so much talent and the possibility of one day being a starting cornerback for the Birds. Has had a dreadful preseason. Maybe he’s having a hard time with the new playbook. Regardless, Franks has too much talent to jump ship after a few bad games.
Owens has been injured basically all of camp. It’s a safe assumption to think that Owens is still solid in the 5 cornerback rotation, but you never know. Like Franks, can’t cut bait after injury and not even being able to see him in Nolan’s new gameplan.
The hard hitting safety is looking for his breakout year under Nolan and may just get it if he can stay healthy.
A good re-signing from the Falcons. DeCoud pulled in two interceptions and appears to be on the upside after a few down years.
Age is definitely catching up with the Super Bowl champ, but he’s still a great veteran presence behind DeCoud and injury-prone Moore.
The former SEC safety has looked pretty good in his first preseason and looks solid in the 4th safety position.
Here’s where most will disagree and it’s likely incorrect anyway, but here goes. Schillinger is a better option to keep as a defensive back / safety than keeping any of the undrafted free agents just because you need numbers. Mike Nolan and his big nickel defense will make use of Schillinger until one of the CB’s prove they’re worthy of a spot.
Special Teams (3)
How many are eating crow after panning the Hades out of this 6th round pick?
Reliable as an old shoe long snapper.