Now that the Atlanta Falcons have made their cuts to the first of what will more than likely be a number of 53-man rosters, it’s time to take a close look at who made the cut, and where they stand on the depth chart for now.
There are still moves to be made in possible trades and free agent pick-ups, but for a lot of this roster, Falcons fans are looking at pretty much the faces of the team that will be there every Sunday.
Here is the Atlanta Falcons depth chart as it stands right now.
1. Matt Ryan 2 Dominique Davis. 3. Luke McCown : The quarterback position has taken a big upgrade from the past few seasons. Right now Davis and McCown are fairly interchangeable, but as Davis grows and progresses in this offense, he should be solid in the 2nd-string spot alone.
RUNNING BACK: B+
1. Michael Turner 2. Jason Snelling 3. Jacquizz Rodgers 4. Antone Smith : Not many surprises in this one, except that maybe many expected Rodgers to be named the 2nd option at running back after his exceptional preseason performances. In all truth, the depth chart at this position is a little overrated, as all of these guys will be used a lot.
FULL BACK: B-
1. Lousaka Polite : This was not the plan the Falcons had at full back coming into the season, but when rookie Bradie Ewing was lost for the season in the first preseason game, Atlanta had to reshuffle the deck. Polite simply outplayed veteran Mike Cox and deserved the spot in the lineup.
WIDE RECEIVER: A+
1a. Roddy White 1b. Julio Jones 2a. Kevin Cone 2b. Harry Douglas 3. Tim Toone : This may be one of the deepest, most talented and athletic receiving corps in all the NFL. No matter who is lined up, you have to worry about them. But this group will be owned by Julio Jones this year.
TIGHT END: A-
1. Tony Gonzalez 2. Michael Palmer 3. Tommy Gallarda : You can’t give any type of low grade to a tight end group that’s led by a future Hall of Famer. Palmer has shown in the past he’s got great hands, and can block with the best of them. Gallarda is a work in progress, but playing next to Gonzalez and Palmer will do a lot to bring him along.
1. Todd McClure 2. Joe Hawley 3. Peter Konz : The wiley old veteran McClure showed he still has plenty of gas in the tank, but it’s the frame that most are concerned about. Hawley is primed and ready to step in if needed, and Konz played center at Wisconsin so he’ll be fine if needed in an emergency.
LEFT TACKLE: C
1. Sam Baker 2. Lamar Holmes : All I can say is, Matt Ryan needs to install a wireless cam in the back of his helmet until Holmes has matured enough to supplant Baker. This position has been a boil on the butt of the Falcons for too long, and it needs to be fixed. Hopefully Holmes will be the guy the Falcons hoped for.
RIGHT TACKLE: B+
1. Tyson Clabo 2. Mike Johnson 3. Lamar Holmes : Clabo is solid, and gets better each year, but once you get past him, there is a steep decline at right tackle. Losing Will Svitek for the season to an injury hurt the depth at both right and left tackle.
LEFT GUARD: B+
1. Justin Blalock 2. Phillipkeith Manley : This could end up being the most solid spot on the offensive line by the end of the season. Blalock continues to grow and improve, and the rookie Manley already showed he’s going to be starter material in time.
RIGHT GUARD: B-
1. Garrett Reynolds 2. Peter Konz : The hopes that the rookie, Konz, would be able to step in and start, didn’t pan out. Reynolds, who’s natural position is tackle, has been adequate, but the push in the run game still isn’t happening on the right side of the line. Konz needs to grow up in a hurry.
LEFT DEFENSIVE END: A-
1. Ray Edwards 2. Kroy Biermann 3. Jonathan Massaquoi : This is a very deep group, led by a resurgent Ray Edwards, who should have a much better season with healthy knees. Biermann has great instincts and is an important part of the defense, and rookie Massaquoi showed some flashes of greatness during the preseason.
RIGHT DEFENSIVE END: A-
1. John Abraham 2. Lawrence Sidbury 3. Cliff Matthews : Much like the right side, this group is deep and led by a top flight veteran. After all the off-season drama with Abraham’s contract, expect him to have one of his best seasons this year. Sidbury can be scary good when he wants to be, and second year player Matthews is growing into an able backup.
LEFT DEFENSIVE TACKLE: B-
1. Jonathan Babineaux : The lower grade here isn’t a knock on Babineaux, who can be a beast, but because of the lack of depth on the left side. If Babineax goes down the Falcons are without anyone who plays the left side as a natural position.
RIGHT DEFENSIVE TACKLE: B+
1. Peria Jerry 2. Vance Walker 3. Travian Robertson : There’s been a Peria Jerry sighting at the Georgia Dome, and the Falcons couldn’t be happier. Their former first round, once thought bust pick, has come back with all the speed and explosiveness that made him a top pick. Walker and Robertson aren’t much of a drop off either.
MIDDLE LINEBACKER: B+
1. Akeem Dent 2. Mike Peterson : This is a scary proposition for the Falcons at this important position. You’ve got one young guy who’s already suffered a concussion in the preseason, and one older veteran that you had to go and re-sign because every other MLB you had was lost to injury or free agency. This could be trouble in pass coverage.
WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER: B-
1. Sean Weatherspoon 2. Robert James : I’d stack Weatherspoon up against any outside linebacker in the league right now. He’s got the passion and the talent to become one of the best. But after ‘Spoon, you have a former practice squad guy who’s played only two regular season games for Atlanta. Stay healthy, Sean.
STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER: B
1. Stephen Nicholas : Nicholas has steadily improved over his career in Atlanta, and has gone from being a situational starter to the full-time starter in the base 4-3 Atlanta defense. He still needs to work on shedding blockers better, but he’s quick and strong and has a great nose for the ball.
LEFT CORNERBACK: B+
1. Brent Grimes 2. Robert McClain : Grimes is as athletic as they come, and plays much bigger than his 5’10 body, but as in many of the spots on this Atlanta secondary, there’s a big drop off after the starter. McClain was burned on a few big plays during the preseason, and that has to be a concern for the coaches.
RIGHT CORNERBACK: A
1. Dunta Robinson 2. Asante Samuel 3. Christopher Owens : Atlanta has to feel as comfortable with this group as they possibly can. Don’t read too much into Samuel being listed as the number two man, as he and Robinson will likely switch off in nickel situations, and you may also see Samuel used on the left side at times as well. Owens is a feast or famine guy, but seems to be more solid than last year.
STRONG SAFETY: B
1. William Moore 2. Chris Hope : Moore has grown into a pretty good safety, but I still wouldn’t classify him as one of the league’s top ten. He’s a great tackler in open space, and ball carriers generally know they’ve been hit when Moore lowers his shoulder into them. Hope is a solid veteran who should be able to help Moore get even better.
FREE SAFETY: C+
1. Thomas DeCoud 2. Charles Mitchell : This is a scary spot for the Falcons. DeCoud takes too many chances, and although he at times comes up with the big play, he’s also been known to be lost in coverage assignments. Mitchell was a sixth round draft pick who basically made the roster with a great performances in the final preseason game.
FIELD GOAL KICKER: A
1. Matt Bryant : Not much else to say here, Bryant is as solid as they come. Falcons are lucky to have him.
KICKOFF SPECIALIST/PUNTER: A-
1. Matt Bosher : There were some concerns about Bosher early on last season, but after a few weeks it was clear he was going to hold down this job for Atlanta for many years. He still needs to be more consistent on deep kickoffs.
KICKOFF RETURNER: B
1. Jacquizz Rodgers : This will be Rodgers first opportunity as the full-time kick returner. All indications are that he’ll be a good one, but there isn’t much of a body of work to look at yet.
PUNT RETURNER: B
1. Harry Douglas : Nobody is quite sure what happened here. At one point, head coach Mike Smith stated that Douglas was too valuable as a receiver to be used as a punt returner. It looked like Dominique Franks was going to nail down the job, but he was surprisingly cut on the final day.
LONG SNAPPER: B
1. Josh Harris : Auburn‘s former long snapper won the job from veteran incumbent Joe Zelenka. It’s an often overlooked position, and hopefully the young Harris is up to the task.
1. Matt Bosher : As with many teams, the punter doubles as the place kick holder. Bosher is solid.