The Falcons started their cutdown by releasing four players, including former third-round pick offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, on Saturday. The Falcons also released defensive lineman Justin Ellis and Delontae Scott and cornerback Bless Austin.
The Falcons will also buttress the roster with a 16-person practice squad, which can be filled after the initial cutdown.
The Falcons are coming off back-to-back 7-10 campaigns while trying to rebuild the franchise. In Year 3 of the rebuild, the Falcons are expecting a return respectability, more winning and perhaps a playoff berth.
“We wouldn’t put a floor or a ceiling on what we can be,” Fontenot said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our process. Just like it always is, we want to continue to improve and get better.”
Here’s a look at each position group and the players’ chances of making the final roster (the number beside each position listing is the number on the Falcons’ 53-man roster for the season opener last year against the Saints):
Desmond Ridder played 17 snaps in the exhibition warm-up against the Bengals. Ridder functioned well as he moved the ball around to six different receivers before he was intercepted. Ridder completed 7 of 9 passes (77.8%) for 80 yards. He had a quarterback rating of 64.1.
Taylor Heinicke, who was signed in free agency, has proved to be a quality backup and he has a playoff start under his belt.
Locks (2): Ridder and Heinicke
Bubble (1): Logan Woodside
RUNNING BACKS (5)
Tyler Allgeier and rookie Bijan Robinson will be counted on early to carry the rushing load.
Cordarrelle Patterson has missed most of training camp with a soft tissue injury and may have to be eased into the season.
Keith Smith is back for his fullback and special teams duties.
Godwin Igwebuike led the Falcons in rushing with 31 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown. Carlos Washington Jr. had 30 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Locks: Patterson, Robinson, Allgeier and Smith
Longshots: Washington and FB Clint Ratkovich
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Wide receiver Drake London, who played only 12 snaps in the exhibition games, made a spectacular catch up the left sideline on a third down-and-12 against the Bengals for a 21-yard gain.
Mack Hollins was added in free agency to add some grit to the receiving corps. He has made his named in the league on special teams, but is slated for a bigger role after the Falcons.
Hodge was having a strong training camp before suffering an ankle injury.
The remaining spots will likely be determined by who can contribute on special teams.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a big 27-yard catch against the Bengals and Josh Ali also had a strong camp.
Locks: London, Hollins and Hodge
Bubble: Scotty Miller, Penny Hart, Ali and Arcega-Whiteside
Longshots: Keilahn Harris, Slade Bolden, Mathew Sexton and Zay Malone
TIGHT ENDS (4)
Kyle Pitts is coming back from a season-ending knee surgery. He played just nine snaps in the exhibition season and caught a pass for 9 yards.
Jonnu Smith was acquired in a trade with the Patriots. He had his best seasons in the NFL while with the Titans and playing with Arthur Smith as the offensive coordinator. The highly respected veteran is looking to bounce back after a couple of down seasons in New England.
Hesse and Pruitt are also trusted veterans who can also help out on special teams.
Locks: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith and Parker Hesse
Bubble: MyCole Pruitt and John FitzPatrick
Longshot: Tucker Fisk
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
The Falcons are counting on rookie Matthew Bergeron to fix their revolving door at left guard.
He had a busy camp. The Syracuse product battled against David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett on a daily basis. Since he survived those daily lessons, he’s likely ready for the regular season.
Drew Dalman will run things from the center position and be backed up by Ryan Neuzil.
Someone has to step forward and take the backup swing tackle spot.
Locks: Jake Matthews, Chris Lindstrom, Caleb McGary, Dalman, Bergeron and Neuzil
Bubble: Joshua Miles, Jovaughn Gwyn, Kyle Hinton, Justin Shaffer and Tyler Vrabel
Longshots: Barry Wesley, Jonotthan Harrison, Michal Menet and Trevor Reid
DEFENSIVE LINE (5)
Jarrett has some help up front with Onyemata and Campbell, who has 99 career sacks.
The Falcons will also continue to develop Ta’Quon Graham and Harrison.
Locks: Jarrett, Campbell, Onyemata, Graham and Harrison
Bubble: Timmy Horne, Joe Gaziano and Albert Huggins
Longshots: LaCale London, Demone Harris, Carlos Davis and Caeveon Patton
Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen will man the inside linebacker positions, after Rashaan Evans was not re-signed and Mykal Walker was released.
Bud Dupree and Lorenzo Carter have started in the league, while second-year man Arnold Ebiketie has flashed at times.
Locks: Elliss, Andersen, Dupree, Carter, Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone
Bubble: Tae Davis, Mike Jones, Nate Landman and Andre Smith
Longshots: Kemoko Turay and Frank Ginda
Jeff Okudah, who was expected to take over at right cornerback, suffered an ankle injury early in camp. Tre Flowers has been playing opposite of A.J. Terrell with the first-team defense.
If the Falcons can get Okudah back early in the season, that would provide a boost to the secondary.
Dee Alford pulled ahead of Mike Hughes and Clark Phillipps III for the nickel back. Darren Hall, who started nine games last season, is clearly on the bubble.
Locks: Terrell, Okudah, Flowers, Alford, Hughes and Phillipps III
Bubble: Hall and Cornell Armstrong
Longshots: Breon Borders and Natrone Brooks
Jessie Bates III, a play-maker, was the team’s biggest free agency signing (four years, $64 million). He’ll be expected to keep things organized in the secondary and cut down the busted plays.
Richie Grant is set at the other safety spot.
Rookie DeMarcco Hellams had a strong training camp, while the Falcons must make a decision on Jaylinn Hawkins, who started 16 games last season.
Locks: Jessie Bates, Grant and Hellams
Bubble: Jaylinn Hawkins and Micah Abernathy
Longshots: Lukas Denis and Cliff Chattman
Kicker Younghoe Koo missed two extra points attempts in the exhibition opener against Miami.
Locks: PK - Koo, P – Bradley Pinion and LS – Liam McCullough
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