Way too Soon 53 Man Rosters
The Dead Zone of NFL and Football is officially upon us. Sure, there’s some OTA’s and mini-camp coming up so it’s not the worst part just yet, but the buzz from the draft has finally subsided some. If you go looking for Falcons news, you’ll be hard pressed to find a whole lot. So why not start getting excited about what reshaped roster will look like under Dan Quinn’s new regime. The new start has been a breath of fresh air and our head coach having a vision and being hands on with coaching. One of the biggest knocks on Coach Smith was his penchant for playing favorites and not seeming to give each position battle an honest look. Hopefully, that looks to change under DQ. A ridiculously too early Atlanta Falcons final roster projection………….
Analysis – At the top, this is one of the easiest to predict with 3 time Pro Bowler Matt Ryan at the top. The new zone blocking scheme should finally take some weight off his broad shoulders and put more of an emphasis on the run game and allow him more time to operate as well as become more efficient and deadly in the passing attack. Who knows what DQ has in store in terms of backup QB’s. Good bets are that TJ Yates will be the backup QB unless they lose complete confidence in him. They did re-sign him this off-season, after all. He may not be as safe as thought since they reportedly made a run at Matt Schaub. If they decide to keep 2, than Sean Renfree may be on his last chance to move up to Ryan’s main backup after injuries has derailed those attempts. It’s unlikely they keep 3, but if they do, Renfree has to be the favorite.
Running Back (4)
Analysis – The newly reshaped running back corps is an exciting group for fans. After having over the hill RB’s that could only muster negative yards, this is a position that quickly got younger, better, and more talented. Freeman, rookie Tevin Coleman, and Antone Smith obviously take the top 3 spots. The signing of Colin Mooney signifies a shift in offensive philosophy with more of an emphasis on the run game, as opposed to a seeming throwaway spot under Koetter. Patrick DiMarco has been the defacto fullback for a few years, but most believe that Mooney will offer better run blocking and tough running. The question becomes on whether or not DQ decides to keep 4 or 5 running backs. Normal logic would hold that the Falcons go with 5, especially with injuries to Coleman and Smith. However, when looking at keeping someone like Jerome Smith as an extra RB compared to guys like Eric Weems or Leonard Hankerson, it makes a little more sense.
Wide Receiver (6)
Analysis — It would be somewhat unusual for the Falcons to keep 6 wide receivers, but several factors go into this decision. First, Julio Jones and Roddy White have both been less than perfect on the injury front. Roddy White will be turning 34 in November and Julio has missed a few games since starting his career. Devin Hester is no spring chicken himself and this all adds up to finding a way to keep an extra receiver on the roster. Justin Hardy was a much needed addition and it will likely be a 3 way battle for the slot between Hardy, Hankerson, and Hester. The Falcons need to start developing younger talent at WR and Hardy and Hankerson could be an answer. Weems would seem to go back to his special teams ace role and would have a leg up on keeping a 5th running back.
Tight End (3)
Analysis – This positions seems to be pretty set as well. The additions of Tamme and Moeaki provided a nice combination of proven, veteran experience (Tamme) and a once great potential (Moeaki) that could regain his excellent form he found in Kansas City if he can avoid the injury bug. Toilolo looks to go to more to of a specialized red-zone and blocking tight end role after the veteran additions. It’s doubtful that any of the younger tight ends can supplant the projected top 3.
Offensive Line (10)
Analysis – This is where it get difficult. There’s so many different directions they could go with the new zone blocking system and the number of players they’ve added to the mix. Will they go with 10 offensive linemen or the standard 9? Will guys like Sam Baker, Peter Konz, and James Stone move to different positions? The easiest way to go is to list off the players almost certain to make the roster. That includes Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder, Joe Hawley, and Jon Asamoah. While Schraeder isn’t a lock to start, per se, he’s almost guaranteed a spot. The rest is a crapshoot. After a strong rookie season, James Stone has to be a favorite at either center or guard. Mike Person may end up being the starting left guard and has familiarity with Quinn. The last several spots are completely up in the air. Peter Konz or Harland Gunn? Tyler Polumbus or Lamar Holmes? Good chances are they’ll find a way to keep Baker due to his contract and there’s a feeling they don’t want to give up on Holmes yet. A new staff may not go as we think, though.
Defensive Line (10)
Analysis – A revamped defensive line has given hope to fans. Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett are very much welcome additions to a D-Line in need of youth. This seems to be one of the more set positions on the team. If Clayborn can stay healthy, he’s obviously a lock. The staff seems high on Goodman, especially working with DQ. Soliai and Babineaux are getting long in the tooth, but are locks this year. Fans are expecting big things out of Hageman. That only leaves about 1-2 spots as unsettled. Good chances are that Biermann will get a spot and Maponga may finally gain some traction with a new staff.
Analysis – Also one of the more unsettled position groups on the team, the LB corps has had a pretty dramatic makeover. New additions Brooks Reed and Justin Durant look to be penciled in as the starters coming in during free agency. Reed has a groin injury and Durant is notorious for missing time. After drawing rave reviews from Quinn, Worrilow appears to have the MLB spot still locked down. That leaves 3 spots. Schofield coming from Seattle will definitely have a spot, as will promising rookie from last year in Prince Shembo. That leaves a final spot in the LB corps. Will the Falcons go with a younger UDFA like Akunne to have another MLB, or will they go with the potential of Bartu under a new staff?
Analysis – An area that concerns fans the most, the safety position is the most unsettled. Quinn has apparently moved Dezmen Southward to cornerback, so that leaves an oft-injured William Moore and a lot of question marks. Kemal Ishmael had a pretty dang good year, but many have wondered if he’s a free safety or a strong safety. Some believe veteran Charles Godfrey is the favorite to start opposite Moore and Ricardo Allen has been moved to safety to shore up the group.
Analysis – Unlike safety, cornerback seems pretty well set. Trufant and Alford will likely be starting at cornerbacks with Alford possible moving inside to slot. The other starting CB on the outside will likely be a battle between rookie Jalen Collins and Dezmen Southward. Journeyman Phillip Adams looks to round out the group with a veteran presence.
Special Teams (3)
Analysis – The standard three take the reins again as the special team three. Bryant still has some juice left and Bosher has come into his own as a punter. The Falcons will need to start a succession plan because aging kickers typically don’t gradually fall off, but rather drop pretty dramatically and with little warning (remember Jason Elam from 2008?). Josh Harris is locked in as the long snapper.