A look at five veterans on the Falcons’ roster bubble

Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub completes a pass during training camp on Saturday, August 15, 2020 in Flowery Branch.  Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub completes a pass during training camp on Saturday, August 15, 2020 in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons have had two scrimmages and are moving swiftly toward the regular-season opener against Seattle on Sept. 13 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The starters are set to receive more action in the third scrimmage.

“We’re definitely ramping those guys up,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “That has been an encouraging thing for us. With all of these guys getting so much good work together as we’re going, then thinking about the offense with Alex (Mack), Jake (Matthews), Matt (Ryan), Julio (Jones) and Calvin (Ridley).”

With the release of veteran offensive lineman Jamon Brown on Monday, the Falcons signaled they plan to evaluate all of the players, the rookies, veterans and undrafted players, with the guiding light of taking the best players into the 2020 season.

Brown was the first, but likely won’t be the last veteran to be cut this offseason.

Here’s a look at five other veterans on the roster bubble:

1.Matt Schaub, backup quarterback. The veteran quarterback has had a bumpy start to training camp, frequently throwing behind receivers.

Last season, Schaub, 39, played in six games and made one start. He passed for 460 yards in a 27-20 loss to Seattle.

Teams like to have a veteran backup quarterback in case of an emergency. They know Schaub can get the team through a game or two if something happens to Matt Ryan.

Also, the Falcons have spent two years trying to develop backup Kurt Benkert, who looked spectacular in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game last season before getting hurt.

Benkert hasn’t stood out working with the deep backups, but Schaub has been so off that the Falcons may be forced to take a look at Benkert with the second team.

The Falcons had high hopes for Benkert, who received a $60,000 signing bonus after he wasn’t drafted in 2018. He spent 2018 on the practice squad, and the team wanted to see him play a lot last year in the exhibition season. He went down in the fourth quarter of the 14-10 loss to the Denver Broncos and was placed on injured reserve.

It would be a bold move to go into the season with an inexperienced backup, but the Falcons are making tough decisions already.

2. Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver. A former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, Treadwell doesn’t appear very sudden and had at least one dropped pass in the second scrimmage.

He’s a bigger receiver who could be a good option in the low red zone. There was hope that he could take over Justin Hardy’s role as the utility receiver.

Hardy average nearly 30 targets over four seasons and had nine touchdowns. Hardy also played on all of the special-teams units.

The Falcons have several young receivers in Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, Olamide Zaccheaus and undrafted rookie Chris Rowland, who are battling for the spots behind Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.

3. James Carpenter, guard. The Falcons signed Carpenter to a four-year, $21 million contract last season and hoped he could man the left guard position.

Carpenter’s season was marred by injuries, and he was graded lower than Brown (53 to 45) by Pro Football Focus. Carpenter, a former first-pick from Alabama, started 11 games last season.

He’s more of a power blocker, and the Falcons are trying to move back to the outside zone scheme. The Falcons drafted former Temple center Matt Hennessy in the third round.

Hennessy has been receiving work with the first-team offense, and the team insists he’s competing for the starting position.

Carpenter has started 108 games in the NFL and played in 114 games.

If the Falcons are pleased with the depth behind Hennessy, they could elect to move on from Carpenter much in the same fashion they did with Brown.

Potential backup guards would then include Matt Gono, Justin McCray and Sean Harlow.

4. J.J. Wilcox, safety. In each of the past two seasons, the Falcons scrambled for safety help.

In 2018, Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) both were injured. Last season, Neal went down with a ruptured Achilles.

With Neal looking fine after his recovery, the Falcons have three safeties and the dependable Sharrod Neasman, who’s on all of the special-teams units.

There normally isn’t room for a fifth safety, which could mean that Wilcox, who played at Georgia Southern, was signed as insurance against injury to the front-line safeties.

In addition to being stacked at the position, the Falcons also have fourth-round pick Jaylinn Hawkins and veteran Jamal Carter.

The team said it’s not interested in signing free-agent safety Earl Thomas, who recently was released by the Ravens.

5. Deadrin Senat, defensive tackle. The Falcons drafted Senat in the third round of the 2018 draft.

He played in 15 games and made two starts as a rookie. Last season, he mostly was inactive, as he played in only two games.

The Falcons drafted Marlon Davidson in the second round this year and plan to play him at defensive tackle next to Grady Jarrett in pass-rushing situations.

The team also re-signed defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, who plays strong against the run, and have praised second-year defensive lineman John Cominsky, who can play inside in pass-rushing situations.

With four tackles ahead of him, Senat looks to be the odd man out. The team also has undrafted tackles in Hinwa Allieu and Sailosi Latu.


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