Two games down, and two to go. Sweet regular season football is almost here.
While this week's preseason game is usually considered the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, the next two weeks are also vital to hundreds of players across the league. Pretty soon, GM's will have to trim their rosters from 90 down to 53.
So with that in mind, we'll examine each of the remaining roster/positional battles and see how they play out over the finale of the preseason.
Backup QB: Chris Redman vs. Dominique Davis
Davis has been a pleasant surprise. Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson have been far from it.
As for the three backups, let's just say the rookie Davis has made things interesting:
Whoever the best backup guy is, whether if he’s a 10-year vet or a rookie, is going to be our backup quarterback," Falcons coach Mike Smith said after practice on Saturday. "I think you have to go out there and let the play on the field [decide]. … It’s a matter of who plays the best.
In albeit limited action, Redman hasn't show the Falcons, at least recently, that he can really be counted on as a backup. His only two appearances in 2011 weren't confidence-inducing, and at this point in his career he's not getting any better.
He's 11-of-20 with one INT and not impressing anyone. A similar case could be made for Wilson, who's stuck around since 2009 but has yet to really make his mark and got less time than Davis against the Bengals.
Davis, on the other hand, has some decent upside. With mobility, good accuracy on his short throws and room to grow, he's got a real shot at winning the No. 2 QB job.
Starting RB: Michael Turner vs. Jacquizz Rodgers
This isn't really a competition, per se, but more an indication of how the carries may be split come regular season.
Turner's production has been pretty abysmal (eight carries for 14 yards), and he generally looks just as slow and worn-out as he did toward's the end of last season. And while I won't join the folks around the league exclaiming "Turner's done!" I do think he'll take a noticeable step back this year.
Thankfully, Rodgers has shown enough to compensate. He's run the ball well, has shown good catching ability, especially on those short screen throws, and could be in for a big year. Mike Smith has repeatedly stressed his belief that Jacquizz is a "legitimate three-down back," and we already know that Turner's workload should be lighter this season.
Of course, the loss of rookie FB Bradie Ewing also partially takes Jason Snelling out of the equation, as I think we'll see him split time with someone else at fullback. Speaking of that...
Starting FB: Mike Cox vs. Lousaka Polite
Cox had one catch for seven yards against Cincy. Polite had two for nine yards and a score. Both blocked pretty well, though Cox was much less impressive when blocking for Turner than he was Rodgers.
So at this point, we may actually give the edge to Polite. In a way, it's not surprising: only a few years ago Polite was one of the better run-blocking fullbacks in the league. Still, the fact that someone who spent 2011 out of football could be a starter on our team is a little unnerving.
Neither is a grade-A option at the position, and hopefully Snelling will steal some time at fullback should the eventual winner .
No. 5 WR: Kevin Cone vs. Drew Davis vs. Marcus Jackson vs. James Rodgers
Nobody has really distinguished themselves in this contest. With Kerry Meier locked in as the fourth receiver, it'll likely come down to Cone vs. Davis and how they perform on special teams, with Cone perhaps having the edge because of his presence on the roster last season.
But don't count anybody out yet. Little(r) Rodgers still has a good shot at making the 53 because of his wheels and skills as a return man. Jackson has shown some good pass-catching skills as well, but ultimately it's his special teams value that will determine his place or lack thereof on the roster.
No. 3 TE: LaMark Brown vs. Tommy Gallarda vs. Aron White
This battle was a deadlock until Brown's four-catch, 47-yard effort last week. Originally a converted wide receiver, the 6'3/220 rookie out of Minnesota-Mankato has intriguing potential certainly worthy of a roster spot.
Gallarda, a Boise State product, spent last year on the practice squad and is a capable blocker, but hasn't shown much in the receiving department yet. As for White, I thought he'd perform better given the opportunity, but so far he's been pretty invisible.
The other two have really yet to show anything spectacular on the field, so Brown's in the lead for now.
Starting RG: Peter Konz vs. Garrett Reynolds
It'll be interesting to see when the rookie Konz finally gets the starting nod. So far he's played extensively with the second team all preseason, with Reynolds getting a majority of the first team reps in camp and starting both exhibition games.
Still, I'd say it's only a matter of time before Konz gets the job. It'll definitely happen before week one. We know from last season and limited action this year that Reynolds is not a prime option at right guard. Hopefully our man Konz is making good strides.
Backup CB: Dominique Franks vs. Chris Owens vs. Darrin Walls vs. Robert McClain
The top three cornerbacks are set in stone, but beyond that it's anyone's game. Franks' special teams value as a return man gives him a slight edge, but the proven ability of Owens and the upside of Walls makes it a tight race.
In short, what we have here is a Falcons team that, for all its talent, still lacks depth in several places. Hopefully this doesn't come back to bite us down the road.
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