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Atlanta Falcons Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Scott CarasikContributor IIDecember 24, 2016

Atlanta Falcons Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    The Atlanta Falcons are deep into training camp at this point, and the camp battles are starting to get hot and heavy. It can be tough to follow all of the action that is going on with the team without being able to get into training camp.

    We'll take a look at the latest moves that the Falcons make and their impact on the team. We'll also look at the closest roster battles and who is on the bubble. As guys are cut, we'll take a look at the impact that they could have had and why they got cut. 

    Read on for a position-by-position breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons training camp roster as well as an all you need to know tracker for training camp.

Latest Roster Moves

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    8/26/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have placed defensive tackle Corey Peters on the reserve/non-football injury list with the intention of taking him off after the sixth week of the season. They have also cut quarterback John Parker Wilson to get to the 75 man limit.

     

    8/25/2012: The Atlanta Falcons made their first cuts from the roster to trim it down to 77 players who count before August 28th's 75-player deadline. Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports:

    The Atlanta Falcons today announced that they have waived tight end Chase Coffman, linebacker Max Gruder, kicker Erik Folk, running back Richard Medlin, fullback Lee Meisner, defensive end Louis Nzegwu, wide receiver Kenny Stafford, and tight end Aron White.

    The Falcons have also placed tackle Will Svitek on injured reserve and reached injury settlements with defensive tackle Elisha Joseph and cornerback Darrin Walls.

     

    These moves leave a total of 79 players on the roster. However, with two players on the injured reserve list, Atlanta will only have to make two more cuts before the August 28 deadline.

     

    8/18/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Michael Calvin. The receiver from Cal was a long shot to make the roster in a deep battle for the No. 5 wide receiver role.

     

    8/6/2012: The Atlanta Falcons signed tight end Chase Coffman and fullback Lousaka Polite. They also placed fullback Bradie Ewing on injured reserve and waived/injured tight end Adam Nissley and waived punter Dawson Zimmerman.

     

    8/5/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have signed running back Richard Medlin. He will likely just be a camp body as there is not enough time for him to come in and impress for a roster spot.

     

    8/4/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have waived/injured running back Robbie Frey. He was fighting for a roster spot with Antone Smith and Dimitri Nance and was a long shot for the roster.

     

    8/3/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have signed defensive tackle Conrad Obi. He was originally signed as a backup defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals but didn't stick. He will be taking camp reps but is a long shot to make the roster.

     

    7/28/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have released offensive guard Vince Manuwai. Manuwai was expected to compete for the starting right guard spot. However, he lost out once Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson and Peter Konz showed they were both more competent and younger than Manuwai.

     

    7/25/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have released linebacker Lofa Tatupu and safety Chad Faulcon and also signed defensive tackle Elisha Joseph and wide receiver Tim Toone. Tatupu had suffered a season-ending injury to his pectoral muscle. He wasn't guaranteed a starting job anyway. 

    Chad Faulcon had the opportunity to be a fan favorite due to his name, but he was cut because of the depth at safety. Toone and Joseph are just training camp bodies at this point and aren't expected to contribute past the first roster cut.

     

    7/23/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have re-signed linebacker Mike Peterson. With Tatupu going down with an injury, the Falcons needed someone to mentor the young linebackers. Re-enter the 36-year-old Peterson into the mix, and boom, problem solved.

     

    7/20/2012: The Atlanta Falcons have waived linebacker Matt Hansen. Hansen was looking like the likely winner for the backup weak-side linebacker behind Weatherspoon and special teams job left open by Dent's move to the starting lineup. Should he clear waivers, he will spend the year on injured reserve for the Falcons.

August 28th Cuts

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    The following players were cut as part of the August 25, 2012 cut down (h/t Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com): 

    RB Richard Medlin

    Medlin was just a camp body. He was at the bottom of the running back depth chart and saw just a few plays in the preseason.

    FB Lee Meisner

    He was never expected to do much outside of contribute as a camp body. He did look good in the one game he played though.

    WR Kenny Stafford

    Cris Carter's nephew didn't look good in the preseason dropping multiple passes and missing on a few key blocks.

    TE Chase Coffman

    Coffman looked terrible as a blocker in his two preseason games with Atlanta so they cut him for being towards the bottom of the depth chart.

    TE Aron White

    White is a product of the University of Georgia that was only able to see the field in preseason on special teams.

    DT Elisha Joseph

    Joseph was looking like he was just a camp body. However, he got injured and the Falcons waived him as part of their first cuts.

    DE/OLB Louis Nzegwu

    Nzegwu is the epitome of an athletic talent who didn't understand how to play football. He had all the tools to be a first round pick physically, but he was never able to put together the mental side of the game.

    LB Max Gruder

    Gruder didn't see the field much in the preseason and was just a camp body. He was given a shot to compete for a backup role, but he didn't stand out.

    CB Darrin Walls

    Arguably the most surprising cut of them all was Darrin Walls. He was able to see the field late last season and looked solid in the defense. However, this was an injury settlement, so this was likely just a way to keep him off injured reserve and available for the practice squad when he gets healthy.

    K Erik Folk

    Folk was never going to beat out Matt Bryant unless Bryant just dissolved into nothing in the preseason. Bryant looked like old reliable and Folk missed a kick wide left. This one was doomed before it started.

     

    LT Will Svitek suffered a torn muscle in his upper arm leading to his placement on injured reserve. (h/t Associated Press via NFL.com) This was the biggest loss of the group as Svitek could have easily replaced Sam Baker as the starting left tackle again in 2012.

     

    On August 26, 2012, the Falcons also cut quarterback John Parker Wilson and placed Corey Peters on the reserve/non-football injury list with an intention of taking him off after week six. (h/t Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com)

    Bummer about Peters, too. He'll be eligible to return after Week 6 of the regular season.

    — Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) August 26, 2012

     

    QB John Parker Wilson

    The writing was on the wall with the new offensive coordinator not even letting him have any reps in the third preseason game. Dominque Davis' play has rendered Wilson the fourth best quarterback on a team that will end up carrying at most three.

Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    Roster Current as of 8/26/2012

    QBs on roster: Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson, Dominique Davis

     

    RBs on roster: Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers, Bradie Ewing, Mike Cox, Antone Smith, Dimitri Nance, Lee Meisner

     

    WRs on roster: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier, Kevin Cone, James Rodgers, Drew Davis, Michael Calvin, Kenny Stafford, Marcus Jackson, Tim Toone

     

    TEs on roster: Tony Gonzalez, Michael Palmer, LaMark Brown, Tommy Gallarda, Adam Nissley, Aron White

     

    OTs on roster: Tyson Clabo, Sam Baker, Will Svitek, Lamar Holmes, Andrew Jackson, Bryce Harris

     

    OGs on roster: Garrett Reynolds, Justin Blalock, Mike Johnson, Peter Konz, Phillipkeith Manley

     

    OCs on roster: Joe Hawley, Todd McClure, Tyler Horn

     

    DEs on roster: John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Jonathan Massaquoi Cliff Matthews and Louis Nzegwu

     

    DTs on roster: Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, Travian Robertson, Micanor Regis, Conrad Obi and Elisha Joseph

     

    OLBs on roster: Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Spencer Adkins, Robert James, Pat Schiller, Max Gruder

     

    MLBs on roster: Akeem Dent, Rico Council, Jerrell Harris

     

    CBs on roster: Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, Dominique Franks, Chris Owens, Marty Markett, Peyton Thompson, Robert McClain, Darrin Walls

     

    Safeties on roster: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Chris Hope, Shann Schillinger, Charles Mitchell and Suaesi Tuimaunei

     

    Kicking specialists on roster: Matt Bosher, Matt Bryant, Joe Zelenka, Erik Folk, Dawson Zimmerman and Josh Harris

     

    Returners on roster: Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks, Antone Smith, Brent Grimes, James Rodgers, Tim Toone

     

    Projected Depth Chart as of 8/4/2012

    QBMatt Ryan/Chris Redman/John Parker Wilson/Dominique Davis

     

    Feature RBMichael Turner/Jason Snelling/Jacquizz Rodgers/Antone Smith/Dimitri Nance

     

    Change-Of-Pace RB: Jacquizz Rodgers/Jason Snelling/Antone Smith/Dimitri Nance

     

    FBBradie Ewing/Mike Cox/Jason Snelling/Lee Meisner

     

    Feature WRRoddy White/Kevin Cone/Michael Calvin

     

    Possession WRJulio Jones/Kerry Meier/Kenny Stafford/Marcus Jackson

     

    Slot WRHarry Douglas/James Rodgers/Drew Davis/Tim Toone

     

    TE: Tony Gonzalez/Michael Palmer/LaMark Brown/Tommy Gallarda/Adam Nissley/Aron White

     

    LTSam Baker/Will Svitek/Lamar Holmes

     

    LGJustin Blalock/Mike Johnson/Phillipkeith Manley

     

    CTodd McClure/Joe Hawley/Tyler Horn

     

    RGGarrett Reynolds/Peter Konz/Mike Johnson

     

    RTTyson Clabo/Andrew Jackson/Bryce Harris

     

    LERay Edwards/Kroy Biermann/Cliff Matthews

     

    NTCorey Peters/Peria Jerry/Travian Robertson/Elisha Joseph

     

    UTJonathan Babineaux/Vance Walker/Micanor Regis/Conrad Obi

     

    RE: John Abraham/Lawrence Sidbury/Jonathan Massaquoi/Louis Nzegwu

     

    WLBSean Weatherspoon/Spencer Adkins/Pat Schiller

     

    MLBAkeem Dent/Jerrell Harris/Rico Council

     

    SLBStephen Nicholas/Mike Peterson/Robert James/Max Gruder

     

    LCBBrent Grimes/Dominique Franks/Darrin Walls/Marty Markett/Peyton Thompson

     

    RCBAsante Samuel/Dunta Robinson/Chris Owens/Robert McClain

     

    NickelDunta Robinson/Dominique Franks/Chris Owens/Darrin Walls

     

    FSThomas DeCoud/Shann Schillinger/Charles Mitchell

     

    SSWilliam Moore/Chris Hope/Suaesi Tuimaunei

     

    KMatt Bryant/Erik Folk

     

    PMatt Bosher/Dawson Zimmerman

     

    KOSMatt Bosher/Dawson Zimmerman

     

    KRHarry Douglas/Dominique Franks/James Rodgers/Antone Smith/Tim Toone

     

    PRHarry Douglas/Dominique Franks/James Rodgers/Antone Smith/Tim Toone/Brent Grimes

     

    LS: Joe Zelenka/Josh Harris

Last 5 In

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    It's a bit early at this point. This likely won't be updated again until first cuts, but the following are five guys that likely wouldn't be on another team's training camp roster and look like they are just bodies for training camp.

     

    WR Tim Toone was a late signing right before camp. However, he isn't looking like much more than someone to take reps as a returner and receiver in practice during training camp. He has zero career stats and isn't looking like he will make the roster.

     

    TE Aron White is a former Georgia Bulldog. He is looking like the last one on the tight end depth chart right now. He likely won't be more than a preseason target and camp body.

     

    OG Phillipkeith Manley is from the Toledo Rockets. While the biggest battles in camp are on the offensive line, it's not looking bright for Manley as he is at the back of the group.

     

    DT Elisha Joseph was brought in on the same day that Tatupu got cut. However, he is falling into the last defensive tackle spot in the rotation for camp reps. Expect him to be cut once the first cuts roll around.

     

    K Erik Folk is fighting an uphill battle. Teams don't keep two kickers on the roster, and he is behind Matt Bryant. Bryant has been extremely accurate the past two seasons, and it will take a huge training camp from Folk and an implosion from Bryant for Folk to earn a roster spot.

Last 5 Out

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    RB Robbie Frey was waived due to injury on 8/4/2012. He wasn't expected to make the roster and was the last running back on the depth chart. It's a shame he never really got a shot to make an impact, but that's the breaks sometimes.

     

    OG Vince Manuwai was cut on 7/28/2012. The right guard position was just too deep for him to break into the competition, and at left guard, he was stuck behind Mike Johnson and Justin Blalock for practice reps.

     

    MLB Lofa Tatupu was released/non-football injury on 7/25/2012. Tatupu was going to be the backup to Akeem Dent and play some of the 3-3-5 packages while providing a mentor. However, a torn pectoral is a season- and career-ending injury for Tatupu.

     

    S Chad Faulcon was cut on 7/25/2012. Faulcon's flight ended before it began, and he got cut due to the signing of Chris Hope.

     

    LB Matt Hansen was waived/injury on 7/20/2012. Tearing a patellar tendon is a horrible way to go down for the season, but sometimes, that's the breaks.

Quarterbacks

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    QBs on roster: Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson, Dominique Davis

    Projected starter: Matt Ryan

    Offseason additions: Dominique Davis

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Matt Ryan, Chris Redman

     

    Matt Ryan is far and away the starter here. He is going to have to integrate into the new offense. This shouldn't be too much of an issue, as he has been working on it with Coach Dirk Koetter. Expect him to have a great camp as usual and continue to start at quarterback for the Falcons.

    Chris Redman is going to be challenged this year for his backup job by John Parker Wilson. Don't expect him to give up easily, though. Redman is an intelligent, fundamentally-sound quarterback who the rest of the staff can look up to as a mentor. He is going to be on the roster either way.

    John Parker Wilson is the third-string quarterback from the past two years and will compete both with Redman for the No. 2 job and with Dominique Davis for a roster spot. He is the biggest wild card, as he could either get cut or win the job behind Ryan.

    Dominique Davis is a complete project at this point. He played behind Ryan at Boston College and will end up as a backup in Atlanta. Expect him to compete for a roster spot; however, should he not earn the spot expect him to be on the practice squad.

Running Backs

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    RBs on roster: Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers, Bradie Ewing, Mike Cox, Antone Smith, Dimitri Nance, Lee Meisner

    Projected starter: Michael Turner and Bradie Ewing

    Offseason additions: Bradie Ewing, Dimitri Nance, Lee Meisner

    Roster cuts: Robbie Frey

    Projected final roster: Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Bradie Ewing

     

    Michael Turner is slowing down, but he is still the starter until further notice. He will see a reduction in his carries, but if he gets around 250 carries, then he should surpass the 1,000-yard mark again in 2012. He also should have a solid receiving game this year with the addition of more screens.

    Jason Snelling is a very versatile power back. He can run out of the backfield, block as a fullback and even catch the ball in the screens. His ability to play any sort of spot in the backfield gives Dirk Koetter another weapon for Matt Ryan.

    Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to win the spot as the change-of-pace back to Michael Turner. He can run the screens, get to the outside of the defense and bring a speed and quickness element to the running game.

    Bradie Ewing is why Ovie Mughelli was allowed to take his services elsewhere. Ewing was the fifth-round pick in the draft and was known for his blocking in college. He also can catch out of the backfield and give the Falcons an element there.

    Antone Smith, Dmitri Nance and Robbie Frey are competing for the final running back spot. They will have to excel on special teams to be able to win the spot. Right now, Smith is the favorite, but Nance played for Koetter at Arizona State and could end up ahead by the end of camp.

    Mike Cox and Lee Meisner are competing for the backup spot at fullback, if that spot is even carried. They will have to perform both at fullback and on special teams as a personal protector and gunner. However, both of these look like they will be cut since Snelling can do those jobs.

    On 8/4/2012, Robbie Frey got waived due to an injury settlement that he has reached with the Falcons. He wasn't going to end up as the starter by any means. However, he was a legitimate candidate for a No. 4 RB role and special teams ace.

Wide Receivers

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    WRs on roster: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier, Kevin Cone, James Rodgers, Drew Davis, Michael Calvin, Kenny Stafford, Marcus Jackson, Tim Toone

    Projected starters: Roddy White and Julio Jones

    Offseason additions: James Rodgers, Drew Davis, Michael Calvin, Kenny Stafford, Marcus Jackson, Tim Toone

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier, Kevin Cone

     

    Roddy White is one of the most consistently productive wide receivers of all-time. He is one of just seven men who have posted five consecutive seasons of 80 catches, 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. He should be able to hit that mark again this year and is the No. 1 receiver on the Falcons.

    Julio Jones is going to be the best wide receiver in the NFL when he reaches his full potential. He has the speed to take it to the house. He has been dominating at training camp (h/t ESPN's Pat Yasinskas) against one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

    Harry Douglas signed a four-year deal to return to the Falcons and his role as the No. 3 wide receiver in the offense. He is going to see the field a bit more in 2012, as he will also compete for the return duties and have an expended role in the new offense that Dirk Koetter is bringing in.

    Kerry Meier was expected to be the next Brian Finneran for the Falcons. Not lofty expectations, but ones he hasn't lived up to yet.

    However, Daniel Cox of AtlantaFalcons.com wrote that Meier is finally having the NFL game click in this year's training camp. Expect Meier to perform well on special teams and in clutch situations much like Finneran did before he retired.

    Kevin Cone and James Rodgers are the primary candidates to win the fifth wide receiver job. Right now, Cone looks to be in the lead. However, Rodgers could end up taking the job if he can earn the starting role as the primary return specialist. 

    Drew Davis and Michael Calvin are both physical specimens who can contribute should Cone or Rodgers get injured. However, both are looking like they will be destined for the practice squad once the season rolls around.

    Kenny Stafford, Marcus Jackson and Tim Toone look like they are just camp bodies taking reps. None of them seem to have a legitimate shot at the roster this year. It's a real shame for Stafford because he is Cris Carter's nephew.

Tight Ends

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    TEs on roster: Tony Gonzalez, Michael Palmer, LaMark Brown, Tommy Gallarda, Adam Nissley, Aron White

    Projected starters: Tony Gonzalez

    Offseason additions: LaMark Brown, Tommy Gallarda, Adam Nissley, Aron White

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Tony Gonzalez, Michael Palmer, LaMark Brown

     

    Tony Gonzalez is the best receiving tight end of all-time and a future Hall of Fame player. He is entering his last year, though, and is getting ready to pass the torch. The Falcons want to make a run in the playoffs to get him at least the playoff win he has never had.

    Michael Palmer has proven his worth over the past two seasons and will continue again this year after moving into the No. 2 tight end role. He's already a solid blocker, but if he can improve on his route running, he might double his career numbers.

    LaMark Brown is looking like the favorite right now to make the roster as the No. 3 tight end and an H-back. He was a running back and wide receiver in college, and his versatility will benefit Dirk Koetter in his quest to build the perfect offense.

    Tommy Gallarda is a solid player and was on the practice squad for all of 2011. However, he is going to have to turn heads in order to not only make the roster, but to not be relegated to the practice squad again in 2012.

    Adam Nissley and Aron White are also college free agents like LaMark Brown. However, they are at the bottom of the totem pole for tight ends right now and will have to truly improve their game before they can earn a spot on the roster.

Offensive Tackles

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    OTs on roster: Tyson Clabo, Sam Baker, Will Svitek, Lamar Holmes, Andrew Jackson, Bryce Harris

    Projected starters: Tyson Clabo and Sam Baker (for now)

    Offseason additions: Lamar Holmes, Bryce Harris

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Tyson Clabo, Will Svitek, Lamar Holmes, Sam Baker

     

    Tyson Clabo is the best lineman the Falcons have. He is the anchor at right tackle, and in Pro Football Focus's metrics, he was the third-best right tackle in the NFL last season. Clabo is also the leader of the offensive line and is the second most senior member of what is starting to look like a much better group in training camp due to new coach Pat Hill's emphasis on the fundamentals.

    As terrible as Sam Baker has been in his first four years, the coaching staff is still sticking with him...for now. However, if he gets injured again or if he just doesn't perform up to expectations, it wouldn't shock anyone to see the largest leprechaun cut from the roster.

    Will Svitek filled in extremely well in reserve duties and is a complete fan favorite for his lunchpail attitude. He comes to work everyday, does his job and then goes home. He's not fancy, but he gets the job done and is almost guaranteed a roster spot.

    Lamar Holmes was the third-round pick for the Falcons this year. He played left tackle in college and is looking like someone who will back up both spots this year. However, he is the left tackle of the future and could very possibly end up as the starting left tackle by the end of the season.

    Andrew Jackson and Bryce Harris played for Pat Hill at Fresno State. However, they are looking like practice squad candidates this year, as they are both versatile enough to play multiple spots and are still eligible for the practice squad.

Offensive Guards

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    OGs on roster: Garrett Reynolds, Justin Blalock, Mike Johnson, Peter Konz, Phillipkeith Manley

    Projected starters: Justin Blalock and Peter Konz

    Offseason additions: Peter Konz, Phillipkeith Manley

    Roster cuts: Vince Manuwai

    Projected final roster: Justin Blalock, Mike Johnson, Peter Konz

     

    Justin Blalock is the second-best lineman on the Falcons and one of just two guys that aren't fighting for their starting job this year in training camp on the offensive line. He is a big, strong player and is a much better pass-blocker than he is a run-blocker.

    Garrett Reynolds was a disappointment in 2011. He got routinely beat because of poor technique and inability to maintain leverage despite having great size, strength and speed for right guard. Reynolds improved in training camp especially in his technique and leverage.

    Peter Konz was the Faclons' second-round pick in this year and is going to compete with Reynolds for the starting job at right guard this season. Konz is looking like he is the long-term solution as a guard in the NFL and will be able to transition quickly into a starting role, as he played in a pro-style scheme in college.

    Mike Johnson was the Falcons' third-round pick in 2010's draft and has been hit hard by the injury bug the past two years. He hasn't been able to contribute much since being drafted. However, he should be able to earn a spot on the every day active roster, as he can back up both guard spots and the right tackle spot.

    Phillipkeith Manley is a great football name. However, he's a mediocre football player who is looking like just another camp body this year. He will likely not be a Falcon past the first roster cuts.

Centers

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    OCs on roster: Joe Hawley, Todd McClure, Tyler Horn

    Projected starter: Todd McClure

    Offseason additions: Tyler Horn

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Joe Hawley, Todd McClure

     

    Todd McClure is the senior member of the entire offensive line and came back this year on a minimum deal. McClure could finally be beat out for his starting job this year, and if he is, he will end up as a mentor to his replacement. 

    Joe Hawley is looking like that replacement for McClure at center. Much like the longtime Falcons starter, he's hovering just around the 300-pound mark and makes his living more on technique than on strength.

    Hawley will perform much better in 2012 than he did in 2011 with a better offensive line coach. It wouldn't shock anyone to see Hawley end up winning the starting center job this year.

    Tyler Horn is a training camp body and likely future addition to the practice squad. He played for the Miami Hurricanes in 2011 and was the leader of their offensive line. Horn could sneak onto the roster, but he would have to play out of his mind to do so.

    Pat Hill has his work cut out for him with the offensive line. However, by coming in and focusing on fundamentals, he will have them playing their best football in the past few years. Hill is a great teacher and should be able to develop some of the raw, unshaped talent he has on the line.

Defensive Ends

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    DEs on roster: John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Jonathan Massaquoi Cliff Matthews and Louis Nzegwu

    Projected starters: John Abraham and Ray Edwards

    Offseason additions: Jonathan Massaquoi and Louis Nzegwu

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: John Abraham, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, and Jonathan Massaquoi 

     

    John Abraham is a legend in his own right. He's the current active leader in sacks in the NFL with 112.0, and with the new scheme from Mike Nolan, he will be allowed to pin his ears back more and get after the quarterback even better than he has.

    Ray Edwards was a marked improvement over Jamaal Anderson last year. However, he has to prove this year he was worth the money. He should be able to do just that, especially now that Nolan doesn't drop the ends back into coverage anymore.

    Kroy Biermann is going to enjoy an expanded role in the new defense. He will be used as much more of a hybrid than before. This will only lead to good things, as he has returned an interception for a touchdown in each of the past two seasons.

    Lawrence Sidbury is going to turn some heads as a pass-rusher this season. In just 200 snaps last year, he had four sacks. Expect his snap count to go up and with it, his sack totals to get closer to that magical number 10.

    Jonathan Massaquoi was taken in the fifth round of this year's draft and has been showing flashes of his potential in training camp already. However, he needs to get everything to click before he can see game.

    Cliff Matthews was the seventh-round pick last season and spent all of 2011 as a glorified practice squad member, as he was on the 53-man roster but didn't see action. Matthews is looking like he will have to beat Massaquoi out for a roster spot.

    Louis Nzegwu is extremely raw, but he's intelligent and a great athlete. With some work on technique, he could end up being a real steal. But he has to learn how to harness his athleticism for football; otherwise, he won't even make a practice squad.

Defensive Tackles

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    DTs on roster: Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, Travian Robertson, Micanor Regis, Conrad Obi and Elisha Joseph

    Projected starters: Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters

    Offseason additions: Travian Robertson, Micanor Regis, Conrad Obi and Elisha Joseph

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Peria Jerry and Travian Robertson

     

    Jonathan Babineaux is the elder of this group. He is also the best pass-rusher of the bunch when he is fully healthy. He has been a key component of the Falcons defensive tackle rotation since 2005. He will continue to play a major part as the starter under tackle in 2012.

    Corey Peters is fighting a foot injury right now, but should be ready in time for the regular season. He has been a pleasant surprise out of the University of Kentucky, as he has started the past two seasons for the Falcons and been a solid producer.

    Peria Jerry is finally fully healthy from his knee injury sustained in 2009. He is looking solid all around as a 1-technique defensive tackle. Jerry is going to play more of a role in the rotation early on due to the injury that Peters has.

    Vance Walker is the primary backup to Corey Peters. However, he could lose that job to Peria Jerry and Travian Robertson in camp. He is a jack of all trades, master of none type that does quite a few things well, but isn't spectacular enough to guarantee a roster spot to.

    Travian Roberson is a big-bodied defensive tackle from the University of South Carolina. He's giving the Falcons a new element to play with this year. He is arguably the strongest tackle on the roster and could end up taking the job from Vance Walker.

    Micanor Regis and Elisha Joseph are camp bodies at this point. There are five guys ahead of them, and they aren't impressive as physical specimen or football players. They will have to have monster camps to even be considered.

    Conrad Obi was signed by the Falcons on 8/3/2012 due to an injury that Vance Walker sustained that is keeping him out of practice (h/t D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Obi is a former Colorado Buffalo and he isn't expected to be much outside of camp depth. 

Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on roster: Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Spencer Adkins, Robert James, Pat Schiller, Max Gruder

    Projected starters: Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas

    Offseason additions: Pat Schiller and Max Gruder

    Roster cuts: Matt Hansen

    Projected final roster: Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Mike Peterson, Spencer Adkins

     

    Sean Weatherspoon is the best Falcons linebacker on the roster. He's a fringe Pro Bowl player and has nothing to worry about when it comes to his starting spot. In fact, Spoon might be getting the green dot put on his helmet this year so that he can make the calls in the defensive huddle.

    Stephen Nicholas was injured last year. He is a top-notch strong-side linebacker and can blitz quite well. He will benefit a lot from the new scheme, as he can get after a quarterback and will be getting sent to get after them quite a bit more.

    Mike Peterson comes back as a backup to both the outside spots and the middle linebacker spot. He is likely going to be used as a mentor and special teams player primarily. His value now is in that role; however, he could be called on to start in a pinch.

    Spencer Adkins has made his living the past three years as a reserve linebacker and special teams ace. This year will be no different, as he is the man to beat for that role again. He is picking up the new scheme well, and blitzing more will make the speedy Adkins more valuable.

    Robert James, Pat Schiller and Max Gruder are all going to compete for a roster spot, but it's going to be tough for them to earn it. They will have to beat out the much more integrated Spencer Adkins to earn a spot.

Middle Linebackers

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    MLBs on roster: Akeem Dent, Rico Council, Jerrell Harris

    Projected starters: Akeem Dent

    Offseason additions: Rico Council, Jerrell Harris

    Roster cuts: Lofa Tatupu

    Projected final roster: Akeem Dent and Jerrell Harris

     

    Akeem Dent was a beastly special teams player in 2011. Now he will be called upon to be the center of the defense. He shouldn't be looked down upon as a leader or a contributor, though. Dent is a thumper in the same mold as Jessie Tuggle. He also was a captain at UGA and is known for his leadership and work ethic.

    Jerrell Harris is turning heads in Atlanta after starring on the Alabama defense this past season. He can play both middle and outside and fits well in Mike Smith's idea of cross training his players at multiple positions. He's one of those can do everything well, but nothing amazing types that Mike Smith loves.

    Rico Council is a massive thumping linebacker from Tennessee State who signed as an undrafted free agent like Harris. Harris and Council are fighting for reps and a roster spot. But it's Council that is looking like the odd man out here.

Cornerbacks

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    CBs on roster: Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, Dominique Franks, Chris Owens, Marty Markett, Peyton Thompson, Robert McClain, Darrin Walls

    Projected starters: Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel

    Offseason additions: Asante Samuel, Marty Markett, Peyton Thompson and Robert McClain

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, Dominique Franks and Chris Owens

     

    Brent Grimes is a top-five cornerback in the league. While he doesn't have the long-term deal he deserves at this point, he is signed for at least this year under the franchise tag. He is a great fit for Nolan's scheme and should be the starting left corner again in 2012.

    Asante Samuel was brought in for just a seventh-round pick from the Eagles. He will come right into the new scheme and bring a swagger and attitude that this defense has been missing. It will be refreshing to see three top-notch corners on the field now.

    Dunta Robinson is finally getting his wish to move to the nickel. He will be a refreshing change to the group of Kelvin Hayden, Brian Williams and Lewis Sanders that has floundered there.

    The nicest part of it all is that if Grimes or Samuel get hurt, the Falcons have a lot of corner depth now. 

    Dominique Franks has the ability to develop into a starting corner in the NFL. That's just how deep this group really is. He's the fourth-best corner on a roster with a trio of Pro Bowl-caliber corners ahead of him. Franks will enjoy playing in the new defense, as it takes advantage of his size and strength as a corner.

    Chris Owens is a solid reserve cornerback and has earned a right to stay on the roster with his top-notch ability as a gunner and blocker in special teams. He can also fill into a spot as high as the nickel in a pinch and gives Atlanta great depth this deep at corner.

    Darrin Walls and Robert McClain are fighting for the last roster spot at cornerback. It all depends on if Nolan wants to go with a six cornerback and four-safety group or a five corner and five-safety group. The versatility of Walls and McClain on special teams will make a difference there as well.

    Marty Markett and Peyton Thompson are looking like guys who will be good candidates for the practice squad in 2012. They are both good college corners who fit what the Falcons like to do in the new scheme under Nolan.

Safeties

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    Safeties on roster: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Chris Hope, Shann Schillinger, Charles Mitchell and Suaesi Tuimaunei

    Projected starters: Thomas DeCoud and William Moore

    Offseason additions: Chris Hope, Charles Mitchell and Suaesi Tuimaunei

    Roster cuts: Chad Faulcon

    Projected final roster: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Chris Hope, Shann Schillinger and Charles Mitchell 

     

    Thomas DeCoud came back to the Falcons this year under a new five-year deal. He will have a much more simplified role, as he will be playing more of a centerfield role than he has before. Mike Nolan will be the best thing to happen to DeCoud.

    William Moore is another one of Atlanta's up-and-coming stars. He's an excellent safety who is both a ball-hawk and a run-stuffer. Moore will be able to take on his role in the defense and play faster this year. This is something that could lead to his first Pro Bowl berth.

    Chris Hope is a solid depth player at this point in his career. He will be a mentor for both DeCoud and Moore and should be able to help them achieve new heights. He also can be called upon to fill in should either of them get injured this season.

    Shann Schillinger is known as a primary special teams player. However, he will have to learn how to play safety in Nolan's scheme to keep his job. If he can't, then he could be looking for work this offseason.

    Charles Mitchell was known as both a special teams ace and a solid free safety prospect coming out of Mississippi State. He was taken in the sixth round, much like Schillinger. However, Mitchell is looking like he is more of a lock for a roster spot than the two-year veteran.

    Suaesi Tuimaunei is a camp body. He isn't going to steal a job from Schillinger or Mitchell, and Nolan isn't going to keep six safeties on the roster in 2012.

Kicking and Snapping Specialists

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    Kicking specialists on roster: Matt Bosher, Matt Bryant, Joe Zelenka, Erik Folk, Dawson Zimmerman and Josh Harris

    Projected starters: Matt Bosher, Matt Bryant and Joe Zelenka

    Offseason additions: Erik Folk, Dawson Zimmerman and Josh Harris

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Matt Bosher, Matt Bryant and Joe Zelenka

     

    Matt Bryant has been extremely accurate for the Falcons over the past few years as a kicker. He's missed just five of his 60 attempts, and four of those were all in the 40-49-yard range. He's able to be clutch when needed and has led the Falcons to many close victories at the end of games.

    Matt Bosher had a slow start to the 2011 season, mainly due to the lockout and being a rookie. However, he rebounded in the later part of the season with a 49.83 yards-per-punt average. If he can carry that average over to a full season in 2012, he would have the third-best average in the NFL.

    Joe Zelenka and Josh Harris are battling for the long snapper job. However, it looks like it is Zelenka's to lose, as he has been the starter there for the past two seasons and isn't looking like he will give it up easily.

    Erik Folk and Dawson Zimmerman are both rookie free agents. However, they look like they are just camp bodies to come in and get some kicking reps. Don't expect them to stick around unless they blow the coaches away.

Return Specialists

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    Returners on roster: Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks, Antone Smith, Brent Grimes, James Rodgers, Tim Toone

    Projected starters: Harry Douglas at PR, Dominique Franks at KR

    Offseason additions: James Rodgers and Tim Toone

    Roster cuts: None

    Projected final roster: Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks, Antone Smith, Brent Grimes

     

    Harry Douglas is looking like the favorite for both jobs. He returned punts back in his rookie year and took one back to the house for a touchdown. Expect Douglas to win the punt return job out of camp and possibly even earn the kick return job as well.

    Dominique Franks has been a solid cornerback for the Falcons for the past two years, but now he takes a job as a return specialist. He isn't looking like a favorite for the punt job, but could surprise in the kick return job.

    Antone Smith, James Rodgers and Tim Toone are also competing for the starting returner job. However, they aren't as valuable at their normal positions of running back and wide receiver, so they could be deemed as much more expendable.

    Brent Grimes is taking reps back at returner this year. However, don't expect that to last long. As Grimes says, "I'm like 'In case of emergency, break glass." (h/t Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). So don't expect him to return any punts or kicks this offseason.

     

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist and Trends and Traffic Writer for Bleacher Report. As a Featured Columnist, he covers the Atlanta FalconsNFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek and runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and host Kvetching Draftniks Radio.


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