Tony Brooks-James, the fifth running back on the Falcons’ depth chart, turned in a dazzling performance in the exhibition-season finale.
He rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the Falcons’ 31-12 win over the Jaguars.
He’s one of many players waiting to hear if they make the Falcons’ roster. The team must cut down to the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Saturday.
The team made one move Friday, releasing tight end Logan Paulsen, according to NFL media. The Falcons will announce their first 53-man roster near the league deadline.
“We’ll continue to evaluate the roster over the next few days as it goes through the roster and also onto the practice squad,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Those are big decisions.”
The most drama will be at the kicker position where the Falcons appear set to re-sign kicker Matt Bryant, who was released in February. Giorgio Tavecchio missed his fifth field of the exhibition season against Jacksonville, while Blair Walsh made a 46-yard field goal.
“For sure, like all positions you want to make sure you’re evaluating and doing what’s best for the team,” Quinn said. “Matt is a guy that we obviously have great faith in, belief in. We’ll get to see him (Friday), get in a workout and see where he’s at.”
Unless his kicks everything wide left, Bryant will get his old No. 3 jersey back.
“We want to make sure health-wise were (he’s) at,” Quinn said. “The worst thing is to have (him) come back and then not be able to.
“Return to play almost. In this case, when you’re not on the team how do you return someone to play. You have to see where they are at. Trust me, the workout, especially at his position, it’s not going to be an all-day affair.”
Once the roster is set, the Falcons will fill out their 10-player practice squad by 1 p.m. Sunday.
In 2019, a practice-squad player can earn a minimum of $8,000 per week during the regular season and the playoffs, according to the collective bargaining agreement. There is no cap on the salary.
The practice squad is normally made of rookies and undrafted free agents. The team can carry up to four veterans, who have no more than two accrued NFL seasons (six games on the 53-man roster qualifies as an accrued season).
Brooks-James wasn’t the only player who made a good impression in the final exhibition game. Linebacker Jermaine Grace had an interception and returned it for an apparent touchdown, but the play was nullified by penalty on defensive back Ryan Neal.
Rookie running back Oadree Ollison played some at running back and fullback to help his case.
Wide receiver Christian Blake, who had a superb exhibition and drew praise from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, had three penalties and may have hurt his bid.
“It was good to see some guys making final pushes,” Quinn said. “How important it is for them. We’ve got some depth at certain spots. That will make for some tough choices for sure.”
Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff looked at this exhibition season, with the fifth game because of playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game, as an opportunity to develop and evaluate players.
Also, revamping the offensive line was their top priority. They were elated that first-round pick Kaleb McGary was able to play against the Jaguars and had a strong showing.
The Falcons roster appears stacked at running back, wide receiver and along the defensive line.
The defensive line also is 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 player Deadrin Senat and Ra’Shede Hageman, who suffered a neck injury, appear to be battling for the last tackle spot.
In the secondary, Chris Cooper, normally a safety, played well at nickel back with Damontae Kazee (ribs) and Kendall Sheffield (hamstring) out with injuries.
Hageman, who’s been trying to make a comeback after being out of the league for two years, suffered a neck injury. He didn’t appear to do enough to crack the roster.
Before the neck injury, he missed time with a groin injury.
“It’s always hard because you can put all the work in and your attitude is right,” Quinn said. “Sometimes, the injuries are a factor in our game. It’s hard because his attitude has been terrific.”
With the exhibition season over, 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, Brian Hill, Kenyon Barner and Qadree Ollison. On the bubble –Ricky Ortiz (fullback). Longshot: Tony James-Brooks.
Wide receivers: Locks – Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Russell Gage and Justin Hardy. On the bubble –Christian Blake and Marcus Green. Longshots – Devin Gray, Olamide Zaccheaus and D.J. Worton.
Tight ends: Locks: Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker. On the bubble -- Logan Paulsen and Jaeden Graham. Longshot -- Alex Gray and Thomas Duarte.
Offensive line: Locks: Jake Matthews, Alex Mack, Chris Lindstrom, James Carpenter, Kaleb McGary, Ty Sambralio and Matt Gono. On the bubble: Sean Harlow and Wes Schweitzer. Longshot: John Wetzel, Chandler Miller, Adam Gettis and Jaelin Robinson.
Defensive line: Locks – Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison, Allen Bailey, John Cominsky, Deadrin Senat and Adrian Clayborn. On the bubble –Ra’Shede Hageman. Longshots – Austin Larkin, Tre Crawford, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Justin Zimmer, Chris Odom, Durrant Miles, Stefan Charles and Yurik Bethune
Linebackers: Locks – Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Foye Oluokun and Jermaine Grace. On the bubble – Bruce Carter and Duke Riley. 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: Lock – Matt Bosher (punter), Josh Harris (long snapper). Longshots – Blair Walsh and Giorgio Tavecchio.
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