With the Falcons now down to 80 players on the roster as per the August 30 deadline, the coaching staff will have just one game and a handful of practices to make their decisions regarding who exactly will be on the final roster. The team has already cut around ten players in the past week.
Players cut yesterday include RB Sylvester Philip, WR Doug Beaumont, LB Youri Yenga, LB LaMarcus Thompson, and CB Kirk Belgrave. The Falcons also reached an injury settlement with WR Tim Buckley. Those were essentially the guys that had no real shot in the first place. All NFL teams will be required to trim down to 53 players by September 3, along with up to eight practice squad players sign-able the following day.
If you think about it, that's not much time at all. Obviously there are players who never really had a good shot in the first place, but for the few guys who've had stand out preseasons so far this last game will be very important. Expect to see mostly backups against the Ravens, all guys fighting to make the roster or even just the practice squad. Here's a breakdown of the entire roster looking at who's a lock and who's a long shot:
Locks: Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson
On The Bubble: Adam Froman
Given how little we've seen of Froman this preseason, I'd be really surprised at this point if the Falcons aren't rolling with JPW at third-string QB this season. However, I wouldn't be surprised if we see Froman on the practice squad.
Locks: Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers, Ovie Mughelli (FB)
On The Bubble: Antone Smith
Long Shots: Gartrell Johnson, Lucas Cox (FB)
If the team wants to carry a fourth RB, it will most likely be Smith, simply because he's shown more on special teams and has more versatility. That said, none of these guys on the bubble have particularly impressed, and the Falcons may choose to roll with only three running backs this season.
Locks: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier, Eric Weems
On The Bubble: Andy Strickland
Long Shots: Drew Davis, Brandyn Harvey, Kevin Cone
Andy Strickland seems like the only realistic bet to make the roster, though I'm not so sure the team will be willing to carry six wideouts. At the very least he'll be back on the practice squad if another team doesn't snatch him up first. As for the others, I'd put their chances at very slim.
Locks: Tony Gonzalez, Reggie Kelly, Michael Palmer
On The Bubble: Marquez Branson
Long Shots: Ryan Wintersmyk
Tight end is pretty much set. I'd like to see Branson back on the practice squad, but that's about it.
Locks: Sam Baker, Tyson Clabo, Will Svitek, Jose Valdez
Long Shots: Matt Murphy
Offensive tackle is also pretty much set. Given how much Valdez has played this preseason, I'm thinking the team is much more comfortable keeping the guy who spent all last season on the practice squad rather than an undrafted rookie in Murphy.
Locks: Justin Blalock, Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, Andrew Jackson
On The Bubble: Paul Fenaroli
Paul Fenaroli is a really interesting prospect, and I'd definitely call him practice squad material, though he could also draw the interest of a few teams around the league.
Locks: Todd McClure (injured), Joe Hawley, Brett Romberg
Long Shots: Rob Bruggeman, Ryan McMahon
With the team signing Romberg yesterday, that pretty much nixes any chance of either Bruggeman or McMahon cracking the roster and/or practice squad.
Locks: John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis
On The Bubble: Cliff Matthews, Lawrence Sidbury
Long Shots: Emmanuel Stephens, Tom McCarthy
Here's where the decisions will become really interesting. Unless Mike Smith feels the need for six DE's (doubtful), then either Matthews or Sidbury will be the odd man out. Stephens has also shown some promise. My money is on Matthews sticking around, as he was a draft pick and has played a nice preseason so far.
Locks: Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker
On The Bubble: Trey Lewis, Kiante Tripp, Carlton Powell
Another position of interest, as any of those bottom three guys could make the team as the fifth d-tackle. Lewis is the likely favorite, but his recent injuries might give the UGA-alum Tripp a good shot at the roster, if not the practice squad.
Locks: Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Coy Wire, Akeem Dent
On The Bubble: Robert James, Spencer Adkins, Bear Woods
Personally it wouldn't surprise me to see the team run with seven linebackers this season. I like Bear Woods alot, but the team may want to keep him on the practice squad for another year. Free Bear!
Locks: Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, Dominique Franks, Chris Owens
On The Bubble: Rafael Bush, Darrin Walls, Kamaal McIlwain
With the Falcons signing ex-Pats safety James Sanders only last night, this kind of changes the game for a few players. With Sanders a lock at safety, Rafael Bush now looks to have the inside track at the fifth cornerback spot over Walls. The Falcons will likely value Bush's (very limited) experience and versatility over Walls.
Locks: William Moore, Thomas DeCoud, James Sanders, Schann Schillinger
Long Shots: Matt Hansen, Rafael Priest, Suaesi Tuimaunei
As I said, the Falcons have signed safety James Sanders to a one year deal. Obviously a lock to make the roster he provides some great depth in the secondary at the safety position.
Locks: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Joe Zelenka
Ken Parrish had a nice couple of games, but the team spent a fifth-round pick on Bosher. Case closed.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.