After weeks of evaluation throughout training camp and the preseason, the Falcons finally managed to widdle down their roster to the required 53-player maximum Friday evening. In less than two weeks time, Atlanta cut over 30 players. It is an unpleasant but necessary part of the business.
As for the final product, there were of course a couple of surprises. Normally priding itself on stability, the front office found it best to institute some considerable changes on the back end of the depth chart at several positions.
Four UDFAs made the team. Former draft picks learned their time with team was up. One guy with two first names even made the team. Could the team be favoring win-now players over stability?
As with most teams, the Falcons front office and coaching staff prize their draft picks. They loved Dominique Franks' potential, or Andrew Jackson's versatility. Often, those players get the benefit of the doubt over UDFAs or players drafted by other teams.
Not so with this year's roster. The complete breakdown is as follows:
Quarterbacks (3): Matt Ryan, Luke McCown, Dominique Davis
Running backs (5): Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, Lousaka Polite (FB)
Wide Receivers (5): Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kevin Cone, Tim Toone
Tight Ends (3): Tony Gonzalez, Michael Palmer, Tommy Gallarda
Offensive Tackles (4): Tyson Clabo, Sam Baker, Lamar Holmes, Mike Johnson
Guards (4): Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Garrett Reynolds, Phillipkeith Manley
Centers (2): Todd McClure, Joe Hawley
Defensive Ends (6): John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews
Defensive Tackles (4): Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, Travian Robertson
Linebackers (5): Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Robert James
Cornerbacks (5): Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, Chris Owens, Robert McClain
Safeties (4): Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Chris Hope, Charles Mitchell
Specialists (3): Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris (LS)
Practice Squad (5): WR Drew Davis, WR Marcus Jackson, OT Bryce Harris, DT Micanor Regis, CB Peyton Thompson
Surprises? Manley and McClain were two players I never foresaw making the roster, but here they stand. Manley was kept in favor of last year's sixth-round pick Andrew Jackson, and McClain made it over former fifth-rounder Dominique Franks.
That's two walk-ons beating out two draft picks, along with UDFA Josh Harris winning the job as the team's primary long-snapper. Oh, and former Mr. Irrelevant Tim Toone, with his great showing on both special teams and catching passes, beat out the injury-plagued Kerry Meier at wideout.
The numbers at each position were a little surprising as well. With only four D-tackles and five linebackers, the Falcons front seven is looking pretty thin in terms of depth. On the other hand, the Falcons are rich with young pass rushers at defensive end. Sidbury especially looked great in the preseason.
The only position that really worries me, however, is fullback. Polite, though a talented run-blocker, went unsigned through the entire 2011 season. Hopefully Jason Snelling can fill in periodically should polite, or else the Falcons may have to kick the tires on someone like recently released FB Moran Norris.
In addition, the team has stated that they've signed five players to the practice squad today, which leaves three open spots left for the Falcons to fill.
Who could it be? Andrew Jackson and Pat Schiller both come to mind, but it's entirely possible the team chooses to scour the waiver wire for players cut by other teams as well.
As for the current squad, I felt both Jackson and Davis were good players to keep around. You can never have to many receivers, especially with the current lack of depth at the position. The same goes for Harris and Regis, who didn't exactly shine but play at thin positions.