It’s Time


Akeem King CB, DeMarcus Van Dyke CB

Position by Position

What to look for in the Preseason Games.

by Michael Chastain, just “lil ole” me


Matt Ryan is the starter, but who is going to be the number two and three quarterbacks? Will Schaub be the veteran back-up or will Renfree make the jump to “we will be ok if this guy has to start a game or two.” I would not be surprised if QB Josh McCown signs with Atlanta if he is released by Cleveland.

Running Back:

Can Tevin Coleman show enough in the Preseason to reclaim a significant number of touches from Devonta Freeman? Who will take command of the third running back spot? Last years undrafted rookie Terron Ward is going to have to fight to keep the third running back spot he held last season. Gus Johnson was a preseason standout with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, but was only signed to the practice squad. Rookie Brandon Wilds will have an opportunity to show what he can do behind an improved Falcons Offensive Line instead of the pumice he was running behind at South Carolina. Will newcomer Cyrus Gray be camp fodder or was he brought in to compete?


Tevin Coleman RB

Wide Receiver:

How will Matt Ryan and Moe Sanu mesh? Is Justin Hardy ready to make the leap? Will Aldrick Robinson revitalize his career with a return to Kyle Shanahan’s system? Can Devin Fuller do a better job catching the ball in the pros than he did in college? Will one of the other camp bodies step-up and take Nick Williams spot on the roster?

Tight End:

How quickly can Austin Hooper acclimate to the NFL game? Can Hooper finally be the replacement that Atlanta fans have been looking for since Tony Gonzalez retired? Will the Toilolo experiment finally be over? Do any of the other guys (D.J. Tialavea, Joshua Perkins, or Arthur Lynch) have a shot at the 53 man roster? Can Jacob Tamme, who had a career high in receiving yards (657) in 2015, still remain relevant? Is there going to be a heavy shift to Shanahan’s two tight end sets, does the team have the personnel to run them?


Austin Hooper TE

Offensive Line:

How big of a difference will Alex Mack make in the offensive line play? How much improvement will Andy Levitre, who supposedly played injured most of 2015, show after a year in the system. Who is leading in the battle for the right guard starting spot? Can sixth round selection Wes Schweitzer be one of Arthur Blanks mandated rookie starters? Will this be the year that Jake Mathews plays up to the quality of his family name?

Defensive Line:

How will all of the changing of positions pan out in 2016? What will the line rotation look like this year? Can Courtney Upshaw and Brooks Reed thrive in a return to the positions of their college days? Will Dwight Freeney still be able to sack the quarterback at age 36? Are there any rookie linemen that will play lights out and earn a spot on the 53 man roster?


Dwight Freeney DE


Derrick Shelby DE


Will either and/or both of the rookie linebackers play well enough to claim a starting job? Can Sean Weatherspoon finally play up to his first round status under the tutelage of Dan Quinn? Will Paul Worrilow fade or become an improved player? Who will be covering tight ends and running backs on pass plays and can they cover them? How well is Vic Beasley transitioning to linebacker? Is the camp hype surrounding De’Vondre Campbell warranted? How much will the defense play in the Nickle package and what affect will that have on the linebacking corps? Can one of the weakest positions on the team become a strength?

Defensive Backs:

Three players to watch closely are Akeem King, CJ Goodwin, and Brian Poole. One or more of these guys will receive significant playing time while Jalen Collins sits out the first part of the season. What will Jalen Collins show in the preseason that we might have to look forward to upon his return? How much chemistry has developed between Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen?


Jalen Collins CB

Special Teams:

Tevin Coleman and Devin Fuller will get shots at returning the ball. If either ore both prove successful will this be the writing on the wall for Eric Weems? Will Nick Rose be any competition for Matt Bryant?

What are you most looking forward to this Preseason?

Do you think the Preseason is a good indicator for what to expect in the regular season?

What position battle do you think is the most wide open?

Is there anything that was not included in the article that fans should keep an eye out for?


Alex Mack C


Mohamed Sanu WR

1,266 thoughts on “It’s Time

  1. SG

    Arno, my condolences. Learning of your dad’s passing heightens my admiration of you and all that you’ve accomplished for the Cage during some trying times. Indeed, you inherited one of dad’s remarkable traits, managing “a struggle with perseverance”.

  2. JB Falcon

    Posted 25 minutes ago
    The Falcons have finalized their 53-man roster by making 11 moves this morning, including waiving WR J.D. McKissic and QB Matt Simms
    The Falcons have reached the NFL mandated 53-man roster by making 11 moves. The Falcons have placed cornerbacks Akeem King (foot) and DeMarcus Van Dyke(concussion) on injured reserve. The team also reached an injury settlement with running back Brandon Wilds, while linebacker Tyler Starr will be waived/injured. Cornerback Jalen Collins will be placed on the reserve suspended list. Finally, the team has waived defensive tackle Joey Mbu, wide receiver J.D. McKissic, safety Sharrod Neasman, quarterback Matt Simms, and tight end D.J. Tialavea.
    Atlanta is also in the process of negotiating an injury settlement with FB Will Ratelle, which will get the Falcons to the 53-man roster limit.

  3. JB Falcon

    21, looks like your worries are confirmed. Simms will probably end up on the PS and gone. I guess building for the future is not an item on the list of the FO. It hasn’t been so far so why should it change now?

  4. Arno

    Upset about McKissic and Simms. The O weaknesses that popped up in the preseason, to my eye, weren’t so much system but culture. Simms and McKissic brought dynamism to the team that Weems and Schaub were just a shade lacking in. To me, this is a Mike Smith, safe sort of decision.

    Other than that, on the O side, I’m delighted that Aldrick Robinson is here.

    1. Grits Blitz

      Now, Flo, you know DQ/TD does not want any more stickin O linemen for any position. Happy with what they’ve had before and kept to recycle this year. If needed, they can grab any ole warm body off the street at any time to (literally) stand-in and take up space.
      4 TEs? Ha, ha, and NOT one Tony G put together. That’s the way this staff rolls, though, isn’t it?

    1. just "little ole" me

      I thought UNC looked better than UGA. NC just didn’t get any breaks. Lots of missed tackles on the UGA defense and the corners were getting toasted. The QB for UNC looked good (strong arm, good pocket poise, good decision making). I though WRs Proehl(7) and Switzer(3) as well as both UNC’s RBs looked good also. I was not a big fan of the UGA offensive play calling. UNC put 8 men in the box and UGA was still running. Chubb isn’t going to last the season doing that!

      1. falcon21

        UNC got all their breaks in the first half, UGA in the second half. I re-watched the game today and UGA threw away many chances in the first half. They actually kept UNC in the game. All in all, it was not a bad start for Kirby and our Dawgs.

  5. Flo-Ri-Duh

    You know I’m a Dawg but there were a lot of breaks going their way and they needed all of them. Chubb is amazing – 32 carries for 220+ yards. That’s a lot for a guy just nine months removed from ACL surgery. Hope they rest him next week against mighty Nicholls. Nerve racking game but I’m satisfied with a “W” against a good team

  6. JB Falcon

    Flo, I’m sure NC thinks they got the shaft regarding all of the suspect penalties, etc. but it could have gone the other way. I’m glad it didn’t, like you said, the Dawgs needed them.

  7. waynester

    Not sure about the way GA kept switching QBs but Smart got his 1st “W” as HC vs a good NC team that just kept shooting itself in the foot….

  8. Wings

    From USA Today – Notable players cut

    RB Justin Forsett, Ravens: Forsett was set to return as the Ravens’ starting RB, and he rushed for 1,266 yards in 2014.

    RB Ronnie Hillman, Broncos: Hillman was Denver’s leading rusher in 2015 with 863 yards, but C.J. Anderson is the starter and Devontae Booker was drafted as the backup.

    G Josh Sitton, Packers: Sitton was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and seven-year starter for the Packers

    QB Mark Sanchez, Broncos: The veteran Sanchez became expendable when Trevor Siemian was named the starter.

    CB Dee Milliner, Jets: Milliner declared himself the best cornerback in the NFL two years ago, but the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft has struggled in limited work, playing in just eight games the last two years.

    TE Jace Amaro, Jets: A second-round pick in 2014, Amaro has a tough rookie campaign and missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

    WR Aaron Dobson, Patriots: The 2013 second-round pick never found his place in New England after flashing some potential as a rookie. He had just 16 catches for 179 yards and no touchdowns in the last two seasons.

    WR Keenan Reynolds, Ravens: The record-setting former Navy quarterback couldn’t hang on in Baltimore after a position switch. Reynolds previously said the NFL was a backup play and that “service is my priority.”

    WR Moritz Boehringer, Vikings: The German Football League star and first player drafted straight from Europe doesn’t make the cut for Minnesota’s 53-man roster.

    RB Bishop Sankey, Titans: Sankey was a second-round pick just two years ago, but he was buried behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry on Tennessee’s depth chart. He rushed for just 762 yards in two seasons.

    WR Justin Hunter, Titans: The former second-round pick never truly caught on in Tennessee. He never had more than 28 receptions or 498 yards in a season.

    LB Manny Lawson, Bills: Lawson was a key contributor on the Bills’ front seven, starting 14 games a year ago. He sat out training camp with a pectoral injury and was facing a possible one-game suspension, according to The Buffalo News, though he said he had no knowledge of that.

    G Jahri Evans, Seahawks: Evans was signed in August and was expected to bring a veteran presence to the Seahawks’ line. Seattle will now move forward without the six-time Pro Bowl selection.

    WR Cecil Shorts, Texans: Shorts has been a reliable contributor throughout his career, but the Texans added young talent at receiver in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller.

  9. Wings

    I really hope the waiver of rookie J.D. McKissic doesn’t come back to haunt the Falcons. He is a player. As others have said, Weems or one of the tight ends would have been the cut to make..

    1. Grits Blitz

      Wings – For McKissic’s sake, I hope he does deliver a “statement” to DQ/TD with great success – now on somebody else’s team. (Believe 31 other teams can just view the preseason film and would want him.)

  10. Grits Blitz

    Who’s “minding the store”? Who thinks keeping Weems and Tolo over McKissic and Wilds makes great sense on a 53-man roster?
    Having talent to properly evaluate talent must still be in very short supply at The Branch. (I’m only disappointed in myself for expecting anything
    different this year. Won’t be fooled again next year.)

    1. just "little ole" me

      From what I saw D.J. Tialavea blocked much better than Tolo. And it irritates me that we drafted Hooper in the 3rd round. I can’t say that I liked him in the draft, but was hopeful that he would win me over. I am tired of watching him fail to catch passes thrown his way. I am also tired of hearing the talking heads say that he is great at finding the soft spot in the defense. That;s great that he can do that, but if he can’t catch the ball it doesn’t matter! I would have much rather Atlanta selected TE Tyler Higbee who was taken by the Rams 29 picks after Hooper was selected. I expect that Higbee, who doesn’t have a QB as good as MR2, will have a much better stat line than Hooper by the end of the season!

  11. just "little ole" me

    7 players added to the practice squad.

    DE Nordly Capi, CB Devonte Johnson, DT Joey Mbu, WR J.D. McKissic, S Sharrod Neasman, QB Matt Simms, TE D.J. Tialavea

  12. just "little ole" me

    Atlanta claimed former Browns wr Taylor Gabriel and cut Nick WIlliams. Anyone think that was KS’s call?

    1. medallion

      While many will remember that I am not a KS fan, I am at least initially o.k. with that set of transactions.
      I really liked Williams for his effort in a very tough game to play and hope he might still be eligible for our practice squad.
      Unfortunately, he seems to be mostly a slot receiver and we now have Hardy, Sanu (Cinci’s former slot receiver), and maybe at least one TE for such a role. JJ can play that role great also. Put 2 speedsters outside with JJ in the slot and possibilities are nice if the speedsters have hands.
      Gabriel had some decent yards per catch in Cleveland implying he has some speed.
      Whether he has hands are unknown to me.

  13. JB Falcon

    Gabriel- 64 catches for 862 yards and one touchdown.?? In two years? This for Nick Williams? C’mon, let’s don’t start gettin’ stupid!

  14. JB Falcon

    And here’s your answer jlom: Gabriel once the third receiver for Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland.
    KS could mess up a two car funeral!

  15. SG

    From the “If I Was Calling The Shots” department:
    Tolilio and Weems would be gone, replaced by D.J. & J.D. respectively.
    Shaub would have been traded.
    Simms would be backup QB (What about QB3? Sanu)

    I’d be leaving room on the PS for another QB, an 2 O linemen.

  16. Grits Blitz

    This stupidity on DQ/TD’s part seems never ending. Cutting Nick Williams cuts it with me. Sims & McKissic on the p.s.? Moronic.
    Insane priorities give the distinct impression some folks are operating well beyond their pay grade and to have previously insinuated the scouting dept. was the problem is laughable. Our team “leaders” are trying their best to make a liar out of Coach Herman Edwards as we don’t appear to want to “play the games to win” – thereby promoting an unnecessary “crisis in confidence”…at least with this one fan.
    ALL my 1966-1998 memorabilia is soon going on sale. (Cagers, let me know if you’re interested in these souvenirs.)

    1. JB Falcon

      GB, while I can appreciate your feelings at this time and as much as I doubt KS’s ability I am going to let this ride out regardless. There is a possibility that KS has never had the opportunity he has now to make his “system.” work. I’m dipping into the bottom of my bucket of optimism to take this stand but I will never give up on the Falcons.

    1. just "little ole" me

      According to the link the team is adding more speed for quick screens and to take the top of the defense. Gabriel was timed at a sub 4.3 40 on his proday 3 years ago.

      1. Arno

        Speed. How fast will Matt and Gabriel develop their timing together? Remember that receivers camp that Matt hosted in the offseason? He made chemistry and communication his priority this year. Again… we’ll have to wait and see.

  17. SG

    Gus is back in town: “Running back Gus Johnson and cornerback Deji Olatoye were added to the Falcons’ practice squad on Monday.”
    He sure didn’t stick around in San Diego very long.

  18. JB Falcon

    Vaughn McClure
    ESPN Staff Writer
    WR Nick Williams is headed back to the Falcons’ practice squad, source tells me.


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