Falcons head coach Dan Quinn calls a defense against the Washington Redskins. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Falcons’ 53-man roster starting to take shape 

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff looked at the exhibition season, with a fifth game because of the Pro Football Hall of Fame game, as an opportunity to develop and evaluate players.

With most of the starters likely not play in the finale at Jacksonville, that period has essentially come to an end with a 0-4 record.

“There is nothing like these games for us to do that,” Quinn said of developing and evaluating players. “There are all these learning moments that we get to find out about players and what could happen and who could develop. That’s where we are at.” 

The Falcons spent a lot of time and money retooling their offensive and defensive lines. 

“We liked what we saw at the line of scrimmage on both sides,” Quinn said. “Defensive line, early on was able to generate some pressure. I thought on the offensive line, really kept Matt clean (against Washington) early on.” 

Quinn is set to call the defense this season. 

“Defensively, I thought we made some progress on third down,” Quinn said. “That was one of the things we were digging on, too, hard.” 

Special teams, under new coordinator Ben Kotwica, had a rough exhibition season. The unit had too many penalties, a tipped field goal, three other missed field goals and a rash of muffed punts.  

“We’ve got to put the whole thing together.” Quinn said. 

The Falcons roster appears stacked at running back, wide receiver and along the defensive line. 

“We do feel like those are some of the positions that are strengths based on how the guys are performing so far,” Quinn said. “There are always things for us to work on and look at, but that running back (group) there are a number of guys that we’ve featured in a number of ways. They are all making an impact on special teams.”

The defensive line is also stacked after the Falcons signed defensive end/tackle Allen Bailey, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The Falcons also added rookie John Cominsky in the draft. 

Second-year tackle Deadrin Senat and Ra’Shede Hageman, who suffered a neck injury and is trying to make a comeback after being out of the league for two years, appear to be battling for the last tackle spot. 

“On the defensive side of the ball, it’s more of the versatility,” Quinn said. “There are some that can be outside players and there are some that have the versatility to play a couple of spots inside. I think you saw (Jacob) Tuioti-Mariner, he was in at nose tackle. Senat was at nose tackle and he was at three (technique) end. 

“You saw different guys outside. We are always trying to push to see what a player can do. This is the best time do that in the (exhibition) season. Put them in a new role. In a new position. Is this something that moving forward that you can count on that person for.”

In the secondary, Chris Cooper, normally a safety, played well at nickel back with Damontae Kazee (ribs) and Kendall Sheffield (hamstring) out with injuries. 

“We moved him to nickel and he get a lot of snaps at that,” Quinn said. “It’s so valuable for us to evaluate the guys.”

In the running back battle, rookie Qadree Ollison ran hard against Washington. He had 12 caries for 42 yards, but had a fumble. 

“I thought he really played behind his pads (against the Redskins),” Quinn said. “For his size, I've been hoping to see that. ... You feel his physicality and his size.”

Heading into the exhibition finale against Jacksonville at 7 p.m. on Thursday, here are the players who are locks to make the 53-man roster, those who are on the bubble and the longshots: 

Quarterback: Locks – Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub. On the bubble – No one. Longshots – Matt Simms and Danny Etling. 

Running backs: Locks – Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison and Kenjoyn Barner. On the bubble – Brian Hill and Ricky Ortiz (fullback). Longshot: Tony James-Brooks. 

Wide receivers: Locks – Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Russell Gage. On the bubble – Justin Hardy, Christian Blake and Marcus Green. Longshots – Devin Gray, Olamide Zaccheaus, Shawn Bane, Kahlil Lewis and D.J. Worton.

Tight ends: Locks: Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker. On the bubble – Logan Paulsen and Jaeden Graham. Longshot – Alex Gray.

Offensive line: Locks: Jake Matthews, Alex Mack, Chris Lindstrom, James Carpenter, Kaleb McGary and Ty Sambralio. On the bubble: Matt Gono, Sean Harlow and Wes Schweitzer. Longshot: John Wetzel, Dieugot Joseph, Tommy Doles, Chandler Miller, Adam Gettis and Jaelin Robinson.

Defensive line: Locks – Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison, Allen Bailey, John Cominsky and Adrian Clayborn. On the bubble – Deadrin Senat and Ra’Shede Hageman. Longshots – Austin Larkin, Tre Crawford, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Justin Zimmer, Chris Odom, Durrant Miles and Yurik Bethune. 

Linebackers: Locks – Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokun. On the bubble – Bruce Carter, Duke Riley and Jermaine Grace. Longshots – Chase Middleton, Del’Shawn Phillips and Richie Brown.

Cornerbacks: Locks – Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Damontae Kazee, Kendall Sheffield. On the bubble – Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jordan Miller and Jayson Stanley. Longshots: Jalen Myrick, Ryan Neal and Taveze Calhoun.

Safeties: Locks: Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen and Kemal Ishmael. On the bubble – Sharrod Neasman and Chris Cooper.  Longshots – Parker Baldwin and Ron Martin.  

Specialists: Locks – Matt Bosher (punter) andJosh Harris (long snapper). On the bubble -- Giorgio Tavecchio (kicker).

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