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NFL Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons: Falcons Cut Linebacker Robert James to Get Down to 53

Preseason

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

In an effort to trim down their roster to 53, the Atlanta Falcons made a difficult choice by cutting veteran linebacker Robert James on Aug. 31, one of the last players to be cut in order to meet the requirement set by the NFL.

Besides James, the players waived were fullback Patrick DiMarco, wide receiver Darius Johnson, cornerback Jordan Mabin, guard Phillipkeith Manley, guard/center Jacques McClendon, wide receiver Martel Moore, defensive tackle Adam Replogle and wide receiver James Rodgers.

The Falcons started their process of finalizing their final roster on Aug. 30, where they released 11 players along with placing two on injured reserve.

The Falcons released linebacker Brian Banks, guard Theo Goins, defensive tackle Neal Huynh, cornerback Terrence Johnson, safety Charles Mitchell, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, offensive tackle Alec Savoie, linebacker Pat Schiller, kicker Jeremy Shelley, cornerback Peyton Thompson and running back Ronnie Wingo.

Of all the players released, the most noticeable one was Banks because of his remarkable journey back to the NFL after he was wrongfully convicted of rape and lost 10 years of his life.

Quarterback Sean Renfree, who was injured during the Jacksonville Jaguars game on Thursday night, and tight end Andrew Szczerba were the two players placed on injured reserve for the Falcons.

James, who was a fifth-round pick back in 2008, was considered a key member of the special teams unit after playing in all 16 games for the Falcons in 2012. The move to cut him was indeed surprising, especially as the Falcons’ special teams struggled during the preseason. In two games in a row, they surrendered two punt return for touchdowns, with one turning out to be the game-winning touchdown.

On the 53-man roster, three undrafted rookies survived the initial cutdown: linebackers Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow and tackle Terren Jones.

As the Falcons’ offensive line continues to struggle, they will be searching and scouring waivers for linemen in hopes of stabilizing their biggest question mark heading into the regular season.

Going into 2013, the expectations are very high for the defending NFC South champions, who won their first playoff game with Matt Ryan and coach Mike Smith at the helm.

Despite the excitement and anticipation that surrounds the Dirty Birds, their play during the preseason did not merit the lofty expectations that everybody was giving them. Smith has admitted that they did a lot of experimenting and tried new things in hopes of preparing their players for a long season.

With the preseason over, the Falcons are anxious to kick off their new season on September 8, when they play their rival and main adversary in the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints.

For the Falcons to meet their goals and defend their crown in 2013, they will need all 53 players to contribute. As the regular season begins on Thursday night, the Falcons are hoping to make a statement in their first game.

Daniel Chi is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielChi24, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google