A look at the Falcons’ possible 53-man roster

There are 43 players who are ‘locks’ to make the team
Falcons cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepts the ball in front of Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the endzone during the first quarter in a NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Atlanta.

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepts the ball in front of Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the endzone during the first quarter in a NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Atlanta.

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Shortly after the Falcons’ exhibition season is completed on Thursday night, the team’s personnel decision-makers will gather to trim the roster from 90 to 53 players.

With the Falcons to open the season on Sept. 6 in Philadelphia, they will not have the luxury of pushing things up against the 4 p.m. Saturday deadline for a final roster.

“As far as roster decisions, there are still some things to work out here even on Thursday night,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday. “There will be some (players) competing to be on the practice squad. ... Some are still battling to make the 53-man roster. It might be slots 51, 52 or 53.”

The starters will not play in the exhibition finale against Miami at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Reserves will have an extended opportunity to impress coaches.

In a crowded secondary, reserve Blidi Wreh-Wilson helped himself with an interception in the third exhibition game against Jacksonville.

Offensive guard Sean Harlow, who was a fourth-round pick in 2017, is battling for one of the final roster spots. He was inactive for all 18 games last season.

“What we’ve seen from Sean is really like an improvement from ‘17 as it went into ‘18,” Quinn said. “You’ve seen it in pass protection. You’ve seen in (with) the way he can come off the ball. Like a lot of players he applied himself in the offseason to give himself a chance to play well.”

The Falcons are revamping their defensive tackle position after not re-signing Dontari Poe. The Falcons also didn’t re-sign reserve tackles Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin.

Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat, Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford are locks to make the roster, while Justin Zimmer and Garrison Smith are on the bubble. Jon Cunningham appears to be a longshot.

“At the end of the day, you don’t try to look at the numbers game too much because you don’t know what people are thinking,” Zimmer said. “You just go out there and do the best that you can.”

Zimmer, who’s spent time with New Orleans and Buffalo, is looking forward to the final exhibition game.

“I know that obviously the starters don’t play, so I’m going to get quite a few reps,” Zimmer said. “I’m just going out there and try to put my best game on tape. So, if I don’t end up here maybe I can end up somewhere else. Just play as best as I possibly can.”

Linebacker Jonathan Celestin, from Mundy’s Mill High and Minnesota, has had a strong camp.

“Early on, what we saw in practice was a really good and square tackler,” Quinn said. “At linebacker that is really important.”

The Falcons want to see if Celestin can play in space on the coverage units.

“That’s where we have taken a deep look at him over the last couple of weeks,” Quinn said.

The reserves who can’t land those final spots on the roster want to play well with the hope that one of the other 31 teams are impressed.

“You want to perform well,” linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said. “There are a lot of people watching. You just have to go out there and give it your all.”

Some of the players released will resurface on the 10-man practice squad. The practice squad players make  $7,600 per week.

This is the second season that the cut down to 75 was eliminated. Because teams have full rosters of 90 players throughout the exhibition season, they have been more likely to rest starters.

“It gives you more evaluations and I think from a players standpoint it’s valuable also,” Quinn said. “Not just for our evaluations, but evaluations for guys around the league. I’m hopeful because of that rule we are able to extend more rookie players.

“Here are 70 to 80 plays in an (exhibition game) where you get to evaluate player as opposed to 30 or 40 (plays). I think that’s a big step in the right direction.”

Here’s a position-by-position look at how the Falcons could cut down to 53 players for the start of the season:



LOCKS: Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub. LONGSHOTS: Kurt Benkert and Garrett Grayson.


LOCKS: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. ON THE BUBBLE: Ricky Ortiz (fullback). LONGSHOTS: Justin Crawford, Terrence Magee, Jalston Fowler (fullback) and Malik Williams.


LOCKS: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy and Russell Gage. ON THE BUBBLE: Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis. LONGSHOTS: Dontez Bryd, Devin Gray, Lamar Jordan, Julian Williams and Christian Blake.


LOCKS: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen and Eric Saubert. LONGSHOTS: Jaeden Graham, Troy Mangen and Alex Gray.


LOCKS: Alex Mack, Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder, Brandon Fusco, Andy Levitre, Wes Schweitzer and Ty Sambrailo. ON THE BUBBLE: Ben Garland, Jamil Douglas, Sean Harlow and Matt Gono. LONGSHOTS: Daniel Brunskill, J.C. Hassenauer, Salesi Uhatafe, Austin Pasztor and Kendall Calhoun.



LOCKS: Vic Beasley Jr., Takkarist McKinley, Derrick Shelby and Brooks Reed. ON THE BUBBLE: Anthony Winbush. LONGSHOTS: Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, J.T. Jones and Mackendy Cheridor.


LOCKS: Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat, Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford. ON THE BUBBLE: Justin Zimmer and Garrison Smith. LONGSHOTS: Jon Cunningham.


LOCKS: Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley and Foyesade Oluokun. ON THE BUBBLE: Kemal Ishmael. LONGSHOTS: Emmanuel Ellerbee, Emmanuel Smith, Jonathan Celestin and Dewey Jarvis.


LOCKS: Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole, Justin Bethel and Isaiah Oliver. ON THE BUBBLE: Blidi Wreh-Wilson. LONGSHOTS: Chris Lammons, Leon McFadden and Deante Burton.


LOCKS: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee. ON THE BUBBLE: Ron Parker. LONGSHOTS: Tyson Graham, Secdrick Cooper and Marcelis Branch.


LOCKS: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris. LONGSHOTS: David Marvin and Giorgio Tavecchio.

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