The thought of trying to predict what the Atlanta Falcons final 53 man roster and practice squad would be in May is preposterous when the final decisions won’t be made until September. But the official “Dead Zone” of Falcons and Football has approached full steam upon us and it can be a fun little exercise to think about what the final squad might look like. Sure, like predicting the draft, it’s an effort in futility, but at least it’s something to think about as the Falcons enter the 2013 season. With the new draft picks and signings, there will be plenty of battles going on for roster spots and the infusion of some talented undrafted free agents the fight for practice squad places will be fierce as well.
Matt Ryan – does anything really need to be said? No.
Dominique Davis - the decision to let Luke McCown walk (to the hated Saints nonetheless) was hopefully a decision that the Falcons are completely comfortable with Dominique Davis as the number 2 quarterback behind Ryan, a feeling almost all fans felt last year. Davis looked really good in preseason and it seems the Falcons finally have a QB they can groom for the future, either for an eventual successor to Ryan or either as a potential trade for a draft pick. Most importantly, the hopeful sign the Falcons feel OK with Davis in the backup role is the fact that they won’t have to keep 3 quarterbacks on the active roster and can use that additional spot for an skill player or linemen.
Steven Jackson – The big off-season signing will be an exciting addition to a Falcons offense that was already potent. The offense seems to truly be ready for liftoff with a running back that can do it all, has power, and actually hits the hole hard. It’s true that Jackson will turn 30 in July, but if anyone thinks that Jackson is only a slightly younger version of Turner, they obviously haven’t been paying attention because Jackson is still excellent form and fitness. He’s only missed a handful of games in his entire career and has posted 8 straight years of 1,000 yard rushing seasons and 5 straight years of 300 yard receiving seasons. He may not be the back of the long distance future, but fans can’t wait to see #39 in red and black.
Jacquizz Rodgers – The former Oregon State product didn’t necessarily have a huge breakout year that some thought, but he came close, totaling over 700 yards of offense, even hauling in more yards than slot receiver Harry Douglas. It’s unsure how the signing of Steven Jackson will affect Rodgers, but it will likely be somewhat similar to his role with Turner, especially since Jackson will be 30 this summer. Coach Smith has said that Rodgers could be a feature back, but he won’t have to be for another few years. It will be very nice having two backs that can do everything required and the two former Beavers will be interchangeable.
Jason Snelling – The all-utility running back didn’t have his biggest year of production, but he’s been invaluable to the Falcons in many ways. He’s been a special teams ace and had a pretty good year receiving considering how few catches he had. He also doubled as a fullback many times throughout the year. Unfortunately, he only got 18 carries in 2012. He may see the same or possibly even less action with Jackson coming to town. Snelling’s still the #3 running back and is a consummate Falcon.
Antone Smith – The special teams ace seems to have a solid hold on a roster spot even though he never gets any touches or looks on offense despite his very good speed. He got one screen called for him that fell incomplete and, to most fans knowledge, that was the only chance he got. Perhaps he gets some looks as a kick returner, but offense doesn’t seem to be in his future.
Bradie Ewing - The Falcons drafted the best fullback in the 2012 draft, but unfortunately Ewing was lost for the year in the first preseason game. The Falcons initially kept Lousaka Polite for a few games before bringing back Mike Cox. Hopefully the former Wisconsin product is back to full health and will fill out the running back corps nicely and add yet another potential weapon to go along with his run-blocking skills. The Falcons brought in two fullbacks in Deon Goggins and Devonte Campbell. Maybe one of them can earn a practice squad spot, but it seems all but impossible they make the roster with a healthy Ewing.
Tony Gonzalez - Best tight end to ever play the game. Enough said.
Chase Coffman – With Michael Palmer signing with the Giants, even though being a restricted free agent, what was thought to be a lock anyway was just confirmed. Dimitroff said a while back that the replacement for Gonzalez was already on the roster and it would seem to be Coffman since the only other possibility left. Even though Toilolo will get all the attention as the “new draft pick,” it would be shocking not to see Coffman a ton after finally getting healthy and tutoring under Gonzalez for a year. It will be a shock if Toilolo gets more reps than Coffman and surpasses him on the depth chart.
Levine Toilolo - The new draft pick from Stanford essentially was just given a roster spot with the departure of Michael Palmer. Of course it’s never in stone for a new player and rookie, but when Dimitroff took him in the fourth round where he was projected for much later, it’s hard to believe that Toilolo won’t be on the final roster. He’ll almost definitely get red zone targets, but other than that is yet to be determined.
Roddy White – 4 time Pro Bowler. All-time leading franchise receiver. Still has plenty left. No sign of slowing down yet.
Julio Jones — The future. One of the best young wide receivers in the NFL.
Harry Douglas — Talk about put-up or shut-up time. The hometown player done good has faded since an excellent rookie year. It’s true that he may get lost with all the other weapons on the field, but when he does get his hands on the ball, there are no signs of playmaking or seperation. Everyone’s pulling for him, but if he doesn’t get back to his rookie form in 2013, it’s time to find someone who can make plays with their ball in the hands, especially with the plethora of other offensive weapons.
Drew Davis – Maybe Davis can challenge HD for work in the slot, but it seems unlikely with Smith’s known penchant for loyalty. Davis sure looked the part in the Eagles game, but wasn’t heard from much again. Both Davis and Cone look to be keepers, but they need to start making some plays of their owns to warrant a spot in the future. Many don’t remember that Davis actually didn’t make the final roster, but Tim Toone actually did before injury.
Kevin Cone – The former GT Yellow Jacket showed his game-breaking speed in preseason, but never was able get a foothold during the season. He did battle injuries throughout the season so maybe that was it. With the Falcons having one of the best wide receiver tandems in all of football, fans are begging to see someone, anyone, break out as a 3rd wide receiver. Could Cone’s speed do it?
Justin Blalock – One of the only holdovers from the previous regime. Blalock has been the binding rock on an offensive line that has seen it’s fair share of changes of the past several years. #63 has started 94 games and every single one except for two as a rookie. Some think he may be on the road to what happened to Clabo due to his high salary, but that simply holds no water when they have the eternal turnstile at RG.
Sam Baker - Once thought to be a bust and one of Dimitroff’s worst picks, everyone involved at Flowery Branch deserve a massive amount credit on this one. They took the criticism and stuck by Baker and he delivered in 2012 after finally being healthy. For once, Baker wasn’t the center of criticism on the OL. He just got a sizeable contract, where longevity and continued performance could earn him a big payday down the road.
Peter Konz - The former Wisconsin Badger took his share of lumps early on, but settled down quite nicely at right guard, especially in the playoffs. There’s no doubt whatsoever that Konz will be starting, it’s just a matter of where. Common logic holds that Konz will shift over to center for the retired Todd McClure and have yet another battle royale to find a replacement at right guard, seemingly either Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, or maybe one of the practice squad guys like Phillipkeith Manley. Speaking of Hawley, if he takes over at center, than Konz would stay at right guard.
Lamar Holmes - Most fans are very nervous about Holmes likely taking over at right tackle, but with him being a 3rd round draft pick, that’s simply too high to take a backup linemen. Holmes didn’t see much action, but looked pretty darn good in preseason action. Letting Clabo go was definitely a risk, but it was time to get Holmes on the field. Like Konz, he may take his lumps early, but hopefully he’ll settle down. Clabo was arguably the weakest OL link in 2012 anyway. You can’t say it was a bad pick if he doesn’t get on the field to start and simultaneously be upset when he actually does move into a starting spot.
Garrett Reynolds – Assuming that Konz will be moving over to center, Reynolds has to be the favorite to win the starting RG position for a 3rd straight year. Reynolds hasn’t finished a full campaign yet and has mixed results. In 2011, he was replaced due to poor performance after about 5-7 games. Last year, the former Tarheel actually did a pretty good job before being lost for the year due to injury. It will be interesting to see how the final OL shakes out, but Reynolds offers supreme versatility in being able to play both OG and OT.
Joe Hawley – While he may be a fine backup, this is put-up or shut-up year for Hawley. The former UNLV product has had a strange career. He slotted in for an injured Todd McClure in his second year and eventually went on to start 12 games at right guard in 2011, replacing both Reynolds and Baker. He comes back in 2012 as a favorite to start and loses the RG battle to Reynolds. His original position was center in college, but if he’s going to be more than a backup, this is the year to start.
Mike Johnson - As with Hawley, if Johnson is going to make the jump to a starting spot, this is the year. He played mostly at guard at Alabama where he set a record of having the most starts by any player in Alabama history. He can play both tackle and guard, but Dimitroff seemed to indicate that he’ll be competing with Lamar Holmes for the right tackle spot. Like Reynolds and Hawley, Johnson is extremely versatile, so he’s definitely got a roster spot, but after being drafted int he 3rd round, he’s looking like one of the worst OL picks if he doesn’t make a move.
Phillipkeith Manley - The first 7 spots are relatively easy to predict, being TD draft picks and being developed, but the last few spots will get very interesting. Manley, a former UDFA, actually made the final 53 man roster last year, but was eventually bumped back down to the practice squad during the roster adjustment period. Some believe that Manley may even be a darkhorse to win the starting right guard spot outright. At a minimum, it seems like he has an inside track to at least make the roster, likely permanently this time.
Terren Jones - Here’s the biggest unknown yet. The Falcons are dangerously thin at the tackle position after not re-signing journeyman Will Svitek and cutting Tyson Clabo. Technically, the Falcons only have two pure tackle prospects in Baker and Holmes, but they have several that have played tackle at some point in their past (Reynolds, Johnson). Jones seems to have the best shot of the other UDFA tackle prospects. He’s big, powerful, and started his entire senior season at left tackle. He could be a great prospect to groom for the future. The Falcons may elect to go out and sign a journeyman type of tackle in the mold of Will Svitek for insurance purposes instead of going young here.
Jonathan Babineaux - Some thought the longtime Falcon might be on the chopping block when Abraham, Robinson, and Turner were released, but he was the lone veteran that didn’t. He will turn 32 in October, but he showed last year that he’s still the most dependable DT the Falcons have had in a long, long time. Can he finally get some help at the other spot?
Corey Peters — After showing great promise as a rookie and in year 2, Peters was hobbled by an injury that he never seemed to recover from. As of now, Peters is penciled in to start alongside Babineaux. This year will tell whether he’s the future or just a transition to someone else.
Peria Jerry — How many “put-up or shut-up” years can a player have? It seems an infinite number if you’re name is Peria Jerry. The Falcons loyalty finally proved them right with Sam Baker having a good year after sticking by him. That’s gone both ways, though. They tried the same thing with Jamaal Anderson, even trying a different position, and it did nothing but take reps away from other players they could have developed. Although it’s been said in the past, this really does seem like the final year for the former first round pick to prove his worth.
Travian Robertson — The former Gamecock is the biggest wildcard in the DT rotation this year. He looked good in preseason, only to never be heard from again in Smitty’s Witness Protection Program. Maybe the Falcons felt so good about Robertson that they were willing to let Vance Walker head to Oakland. Most fans are really hoping for a breakout year or at least extremely solid on from Robertson. Otherwise, the Falcons are dangerously thin for the future at DT.
Micanor Regis – This is one that most may not agree with or predict. Regis earned a spot on the practice squad last year and may could make the jump this year. He showed a few flashes in preseason and had very good stats while at Miami: 6-3, 305 pounds, 46 career games with 112 tackles (52 solo), 5.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and three interceptions at Miami. Any defensive tackle who can nab that many tackles for loss and more surprising, 3 interceptions, obviously has talent. It’s hard to think the Falcons would roll with only 4 defensive tackles when 2 of them (Jerry, Peters) have had major injury troubles and one of the others will be turning 32 (Babineaux).
Osi Umenyiora – John Abraham’s younger replacement is slotted to take over for the player he’s replacing. It’s curious as to what extent the former Giant will play, but he’s locked in atop a very interesting defensive end group.
Kroy Biermann* – This has an asterisk by it because the belief and hope is that Biermann will see a special type of role carved out for him and not be married to being a full-time defensive end. That’s the only way to reconcile taking not one, but two defensive ends in the draft to go along with Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi already on the roster. Biermann will likely be listed as defensive end, but the anticipation is that he’ll be playing more LB than DE in 2013.
Cliff Matthews - Some think that one of the four young defensive ends might be on the outside looking in, but they found a way to keep all 6 last year and that was before Biermann started taking on a more versatile type of role. Matthews will be locked in a battle with Massaquoi and new draft picks Goodman and Maponga for the other starting spot. There’ll likely be a pecking order of some sort and most all of them may find roles on the team. Matthews could get more 3-4 DE type of looks since he’s one of the bigger DE’s on the roster.
Jonathan Massaquoi - Some are thinking that Massaquoi might be the favorite to earn the starting spot opposite Umenyiora. He had one of the best sack productions in college compared to the other DE’s on the roster. Mass may not be the tallest of ends, but he’s 264 and has shown he can get after the rusher. Along with Maponga and Biermann, Massaquoi seems to be a perfect fit for rush OLB’s in any 3-4 looks that Nolan is ready to run.
Malliciah Goodman – The former Clemson standout is quietly becoming a darkhorse to steal the starting job as a rookie. He is one of the best physical specimens the Falcons have had at defensive end in quite a while. 6’4, 276 is a prototypical defensive end and will likely find some playing time if he can get his work ethic on par and find some major consistency he lacked in college.
Stansly Maponga – The TCU Horned Frog is the ultimate wild card in this defensive end group. He seems similar in build and skill level to Massaquoi. The defensive end is extremely versatile form his college days, playing in many different looks, both as a 4-3 DE and a 3-4 OLB. Maponga seems like a prototypical Mike Nolan player. Is battling back from injury, but may surprise some people.
Sean Weatherspoon - The first round draft pick seemed to be on his way to his first Pro Bowl before he got injured. One of the only dynamic playmakers at linebacker who can make plays other than just tackling. Spoon seems to be depended on to cover since he’s one of the only ones that can do it. Perhaps that’s been affecting his chances to get after the QB. Is at the precipice of turning the corner into all-out stud, but just hasn’t hit it yet. Likely the new leader of the Falcons defense.
Stephen Nicholas - No player’s likely happier than Stephen Nicholas. Some fans wanted him cut in the off-season along with Abraham, Robinson, and Turner, but not only did he stay on as a likely starter, but he got a huge boost when the Falcons didn’t select one single linebacker in the draft. Although the traditional linebacker isn’t as heavily counted on, he would have been the one to worry since Spoon is rock solid and Dent is young middle linebacker that showed growth. He actually had a pretty good year, but all fans will remember is his poor playoff performances.
Akeem Dent - The former UGA player took his lumps early on, but definitely seemed to get better as the season went on. Considering the fact that the nickel back Robert McClain played more snaps than him, it’s a testament to him that he kept at it and made some progress, even though slight. He’ll likely never be the next Patrick Willis and needs major work on his coverage skills, but what he was needed to do (replacing Curtis Lofton) he’s on his way to being a solid, if not spectacular MLB.
Pat Schiller – After the top 3, it’s anybody’s guess. Eternal practice squad hanger-on Robert James finally made the roster 4 years later and Mike Peterson was brought back to fill in for an injured Lofa Tatupu. Schiller looked pretty good in preseason and seems ready to make the jump from UDFA to practice squad to roster spot. He’ll have to fight like mad against several current UDFA’s, James, and Brian Banks, but Schiller seems to be ready for a spot behind Dent on the roster.
Brian Banks – Forget the feel-good story because this guy will have to show he can play to earn a spot. Part of him getting a spot may simply be by default because there’s not a whole lot of top level talent competing since the Falcons passed on taking a linebacker in the draft. Right now, it seems to be between Banks, Schiller, and Robert James for two spots. Most fans are ready to give someone else a shot after four years of James bouncing up and down the roster. Like Schiller, he will have some competition for those two backup spots with some talented players in Nick Clancy, Paul Worrilow, and Joplo Bartu, but he will have the drive and motivation to get him over the top. The Falcons may bring in an older vet for insurance purposes instead of the youth movement.
Asante Samuel – The multiple time Pro Bowler added a needed swagger to the defense last year and proved to be one tough son-of-a-gun, battling through multiple injuries to help out his team. Still showed he’s got some gas in the tank, but it may be his last year as a Falcon.
Desmond Trufant – The new first round draft pick takes over Deion Sander’s old number and will likely be starting opposite of Samuel. There’s a chance that Robert McClain could beat him out, but he seems more suited to the nickel, where he excelled last year.
Robert McClain – The 2012 surprise of the year will be back and find himself some new athletic position mates. He is the favorite to keep the nickel position for now and may even beat out the rookie Trufant, but he’ll have competition from both ends, where Robert Alford will be trying to get on the field with his speed and athleticism.
Robert Alford – The Falcons double-downing on cornerback has reinvigorated the cornerback position in one fell swoop. Alford seems to be the favorite to take over kick returning duties and maybe even punt return responsibilities as well. Will probably be the dime back at first but could move up the depth chart.
Peyton Thompson – Like several other positions the final roster spots are a crapshoot to predict, and cornerback is no exception. Many may think that Dominque Franks will be the frontrunner to win the final spot, but Thompson has been getting raves and may be the next Brent Grimes. Not only is he a former UDFA, but he also has insane athletic talent and speed. If Thompson can break through, he could find a permanent home for the near future.
William Moore —
Thomas DeCoud —
Charles Mitchell —
Zeke Motta –
Kemal Ishmael –
Matt Bryant —
Matt Bosher —
Josh Harris –
Ronnie Wingo (RB)
Paul Worrilow (LB)
Adam Replogle (DT)
Nick Clancy (LB)
Reshad Evans (WR)
Jacques McClendon (OG)
Alec Savoie (OT)
Tommy Gallarda (TE)