Justin Shaffer among players cut as Falcons trim roster to 53

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons released several players Tuesday, including former Georgia and Cedar Grove High standout Justin Shaffer, as they trimmed their roster to the NFL-mandated 53-player limit.

The deadline for the moves was 4 p.m. Tuesday.

In addition to Shaffer, the Falcons released defensive end Abdullah Anderson, cornerback Corey Ballentine, wide receiver Cameron Batson, wide receiver Stanley Berryhill, safety Henry Black, outside linebacker Jordan Brailford, defensive end Darrion Daniels, wide receiver Frank Darby, tight end Anthony Firkser, tight end Tucker Fisk, guard Colby Gossett, cornerback Matt Hankins, guard Jonotthan Harrison, running back Caleb Huntley, wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, center Ryan Neuzil, running back Qadree Ollison, tight end MyCole Pruitt, safety Teez Tabor, defensive end Derrick Tangelo, defensive end Nick Thurman, offensive tackle Tyler Vrabel and offensive tackle Leroy Watson.

Linebacker Dorian Etheridge and fullback John Raine were waived injured.

After cutting the roster, the Falcons have until noon Wednesday to fill out their 16-player practice squad. Several of the players who were released Tuesday will be brought back to the practice squad.

The Falcons plan to continue to look at improving their roster after the deadline.

“I think there are 32 teams that are monitoring the waiver wire,” coach Arthur Smith said. “Everybody’s got different philosophies. You can see some guys that were released over the weekend. Some guys (were released Monday and) it leaks out.”

Some teams announce some of their cuts before the deadline in stages.

This was Smith’s second cutdown day as a head coach.

“Well, you know, it was a little bit different,” Smith said. “It’s going to be very fluid. So, what you may see (Tuesday) at 4, it may look different at 4 on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Without the (exhibition) season (at) four (games), these transactions happen earlier now.”

Also, the process is less complicated because of health concerns.

“Last year you were still dealing with some of the COVID restrictions,” Smith said. “So that was a different dynamic. We also played Sunday night. So, we didn’t practice on Monday. And, you know, we only get a certain number of practices this week.

“So, there are a lot of things that are a little bit different. The variables have changed, but like anything, you look at what we did in the past and what can we improve on. We’ve certainly done that.”

Among the players cut, Watson, who went to Shiloh High, played tight end in college and was being converted to offensive tackle. Huntley led the Falcons in rushing during the exhibition games. Shaffer was a sixth-round pick (190th overall) from Georgia.

Etheridge was carted off the field with a knee injury Saturday against the Jaguars in the final exhibition game and likely will be out a couple of weeks. While the injury appeared serious, it turned out to be a bone bruise.

Among the players on the 53-man roster, defensive end Marlon Davidson, who recently had surgery on his left knee, likely is headed for injured reserve.

The Falcons are holding out hope that rookie wide receiver Drake London will be ready for Game 1. He suffered a hit on his left knee Aug. 12 and has not practiced since.

London was the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft and was slated to be the centerpiece of the team’s revamped wide-receiving corps.

Cornerback Dee Alford, a former Canadian Football League star, made a strong bid for a roster spot. Alford, who played at Spalding High, is from Griffin and played at Tusculum.

“He’s a gnat around the ball,” cornerback A.J. Terrell said. “He’s always around the ball. Athletic guy. He’s smart even though he’s shorter or whatever, but he makes plays all the time. You really couldn’t tell with the way that he comes down and tackles. He’s just always around the ball and a down-to-earth guy.”

Wide receiver Jared Bernhardt, a former lacrosse player, led the Falcons in receiving during the exhibition games.

“He’s definitely been doing good,” Terrell said. “But knowing that he was just playing lacrosse and just came out here, that’s a big jump.”

The Falcons previously had to cut from 90 to 85 and 85 to 80.

“It’s kind of like shock and welcome-to-the-NFL almost,” rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder said. “We’ve already had two cuts, so you’ve seen some of the guys kind of leave the locker room. When you come in the next morning and the locker is cleared out. He’s gone. You send him (a) text and wish him good luck. You hope he finds a spot somewhere else.”



Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder


Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, Avery Williams, Tyler Allgeier and fullback Keith Smith


Drake London, Bryan Edwards, Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge, Damiere Byrd and Jared Bernhardt


Kyle Pitts, Parker Hesse, John FitzPatrick and Feleipe Franks


Jake Matthews, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Elijah Wilkinson, Jalen Mayfield and Germain Ifedi


Grady Jarrett, Ta’Quon Graham, Anthony Rush, Marlon Davidson and Timothy Horne


OLB – Ade Ogundeji, Lorenzo Carter, Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone and Quinton Bell. ILB – Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker, Troy Andersen, Nathan Landman and Deion Jones


A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, Dee Alford, Darren Hall, Isaiah Oliver and Mike Ford


Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, Dean Marlowe and Erik Harris


K – Younghoe Koo

P – Bradley Pinion

LS – Liam McCullough

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