All preseason long the Falcons have been slowly trimming the team down to 53 men, and now finally know how the final roster will look headed into 2011. There were several tough decisions and a few surprises along the way. We saw some familiar faces like Coy Wire and Chauncey Davis go, and we watched some guys like UDFA Darrin Walls impress in camp and make the team.
While I wouldn't expect this roster to change too drastically, I also think the Falcons will do some fine-tuning in the coming weeks. Six cornerbacks and nine offensive linemen (one of whom is injured) likely won't stay that way for very long. Regardless, come join me in breaking down your Atlanta Falcons opening roster and practice squad for 2011:
Quarterbacks(2): Matt Ryan, Chris Redman
JP Wilson may have played himself out of a roster spot in the Falcons final game of the preseason, but a more likely explanation is most teams now carrying only two quarterbacks. Teams are no longer required to have a third, inactive QB on the roster. The Falcons had depth issues at other positions, and so those clearly took priority. WR Kerry Meier, a former college quarterback, could probably serve as an emergency QB if needed. Pray that never happens.
Runningbacks(5): Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Ovie Mughelli
Antone Smith, on the other hand, won himself a roster spot in the preseason finale. With that, the Falcons probably have one of the deepest group of running backs in the league. That's not necessarily a bad thing when your top guy has logged 300+ carries twice since 2008.
Wide Receivers(5): Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier, Eric Weems
No real surprises here. There were several impressive wideouts in camps this year, but the Falcons weren't willing to carry six on the roster. But I have no issue with this group as it stands.
Tight End(3): Tony Gonzalez, Reggie Kelly, Michael Palmer
Again, no surprises outside of the injury to Justin Peelle. Hopefully Kelly can come in and fill his "king of blocking" role adequately.
Offensive Tackle(3): Tyson Clabo, Sam Baker, Will Svitek
Jose Valdez did not make the team, and given his shaky performance in the preseason I'm not so sure he should have. While tackle may be thin at the moment, my guess is one of either Valdez or Andrew Jackson could be called up once McClure is completely healthy.
Offensive Guard(3): Justin Blalock, Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson
Just as I said above, guard is also a little thin at the moment. That, however, could easily change in the coming weeks.
Center(3): Joe Hawley, Rob Bruggeman, Todd McClure
Bruggeman was somewhat of a surprise, making the roster over guys like Jackson and Romberg. But perhaps this is more of a sign of encouragement regarding the severity of McClure's injury. Bruggeman also has experience at guard, so versatily may also have been a factor in this. However, for this season I think he's more likely practice squad material in the long term.
Defensive End(5): John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews
Chauncey Davis didn't make the cut, but seventh-round pick Cliff Matthews did. He had a great camp, and I'm really excited about the potential for this team to develop him down the road. As for Edwards, all signs point to him being ready for the Bears this week. I can't wait to see him put this bro to the turf.
Defensive Tackle(5): Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, Carlton Powell
Powell is the surprise name here. The Falcons picked him up after he was cut by the Jets. He must've shown the coaches something in practice or on the field that I missed, because I thought Lewis was more impressive. Then again, I'm not a coach.
Linebacker(6): Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Akeem Dent, Spencer Adkins
I'm happy the LB corps was able to stay intact this offseason. Nickels and Mo Pete were both able to return, and the team added Dent for further depth at the position. Veteran special teamer Coy Wire was cut, but given that Adkins is younger, faster, etc. I'm not super-surprised.
Cornerback(6): Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Franks, Chris Owens, Darrin Walls
The team kept six cornerbacks. This tells me one thing: Hayden is not completely healthy. He has a long history of injuries, and the Colts cutting him probably means that he wasn't healthy coming into camp this year. Probably nothing too serious or the Falcons wouldn't have signed him, but for now they'll keep Walls on the team as an extra insurance policy.
Safety(4): William Moore, Thomas DeCoud, James Sanders, Schann Schillinger
Cut by the Pats, Sanders is the new addition to this group, and provides some veteran stability to the position. It's also interesting to note that DeCoud is in a contract year. Could this be added pressure for him to perform? We'll see.
Specialists(3): Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Joe Zelenka
Practice Squad(7): QB John Parker Wilson, WR Drew Davis, WR Kevin Cone, OT Jose Valdez, OG Andrew Jackson, LB Robert James, SS Rafael Bush
The Falcons still have one open spot on the squad, but the players already signed are no big surprises. However, both Davis and Cone, UDFA receivers this season, had great showings in camp and have some great potential to develop down the road. Alas, no Bear Woods.
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