September is pretty far from the holidays. I guess we're closer than we were in July, but we ain't hearin' no sleigh bells.
For some people, September is the straight-up antithesis of the holidays. I'm talking, of course, about those NFL players who become casualties of cuts when the deadline for final rosters comes.
It's a necessary evil, an inevitability, a "difficult [thing] every year," according to Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith.
Call it what you want, but it's part of building a team.
Yes, taking players off a team is part of building a team. Who is cut and who is kept conveys important messages to the guys: "work on this," "more is expected of you with this," or maybe "we're depending on you." And when the men get this info, they can refocus themselves, get better, and improve a team.
So what do the Dirty Birds' 2009 cuts tell us?
Coach Smith had only this to say:
"They [the cuts] will be different this year because we're so familiar with these guys now."
Cut: WRs Aaron Kelly and Troy Bergeron (Bergeron signed to practice squad)
Both Kelly and Bergeron fit the "tall, lanky" receiver stereotype, rather than the "short, explosive" slot-back idea. They are also very youthful, Aaron being a rookie and Troy just a one-year vet.
Unfortunately for the two, what the Falcons needed to add to their receiving corps was a new guy for the slot (after the loss of Harry Douglas) and some experience to complement Matt Ryan's freshness. There was room for one long fellow, and the spot went, fairly unsurprisingly, to the healed Brian Finneran. Eric Weems and Marty Booker, respectively, will fill the other two roles.
My personal reaction? Dirty Birds brass made the right moves, including picking up Bergeron for the practice squad. I hate that I won't see him leaping over an unsuspecting corner at some point this season, and that the 6'5" frame of Kelly may never fill out an Atlanta jersey, but Weems was my favorite receiver through the preseason and Booker showed he could still catch.
Really, decisions for the the WRs didn't require a whole lot of thought. There is potential with Kelly and Bergeron, but there was no reason to take a gamble on either. Perhaps Troy will develop some more down the road.
Cut: RB Thomas Brown
I hate to see a good Dawg put down, but this makes sense. Tommy just didn't do anything to impress, though he got plenty of chances.
One could count on one hand the number of effective runs Brown had this preseason; for that matter, you could probably count the number of effective runs he's had in all three of his preseasons on one hand. He's just too undersized to impose his will.
He has that "high motor" classic of small backs, and is a determined young man, but he could not contribute on returns, let alone from scrimmage. Pretty obviously, his best days were at UGA.
Jason Snelling retains his spot at third on the depth chart, and this is definitely going to help the team. In terms of carries, Snell won't ever be relied on for much, but he more and more is looking like a solid RB/FB hybrid, and he'll never shy from a block.
Cut: LBs Robert James and Jamie Winborn (James signed to practice squad)
Neither guy saw extensive exhibition action, but James at the very least did what he could with his time, topping out at four tackles in the Ravens game and getting three in two others. Well, I guess that's why he got the practice squad nod.
Winborn as a Falcon just wasn't meant to be, I guess. Though he managed three solos against Baltimore, we've decided to work on project Spencer Adkins instead. Honestly, I love Adkins and am pleased that he's on the regular roster, but I do wonder if he'll contribute at all besides special teams. As one of six 'backers to make the final cut, I should hope he can...
But we have vets Tony Gilbert and Coy Wire to step up should any of the starters falter, so I can see where we might want Spencer to get as many in-game reps as possible so he can hone his skills. And in the end, wasn't it me that picked him as one of the Falcs' top prospects in an earlier DDDB?
Cut: QB D.J. Shockley (signed to practice squad)
If you've been reading this column, you know how I feel about ole Deej. He just is not playing with the confidence of a pro quarterback, and it's understandable considering the utter lack of burn he's gotten.
But that doesn't mean we can just give the man a roster spot, not when he went 10-of-26 in the preseason and never once had a game with a completion percentage of 50 percent. His competition for the third QB spot, John Parker Wilson, never looked exactly poised, but he did manage three-of-three against the Lions and 13-of-19 against Baltimore.
In my opinion, Shockley needed to be run in some Wildcat plays this preseason, or perhaps even at the RB or WR positions, just to ease him into being a part of this team. He played like someone who'd been out of football for three years, which I guess he more or less has.
Honestly, though JPW performed better in exhibition, I'm crossing my fingers we never have to go down to him in a game, for obvious reasons. Good thing Redman's a rock of a No. 2.
Cut: DT Vance Walker, DE Maurice Lucas, CB William Middleton, S Eric Brock (Walker and Lucas signed to practice squad)
Here's a handful of defensive names that you might recognize. Of them, I can only remember Lucas doing anything of significance in the preseason, but then again, I was mostly looking up at the heavens when the second- and third-string D was in.
As in, "Please God, will you help 'em out?"
Neither of the rookies in this group (Walker and Middleton) deserved an outright roster spot, for sure, but I'm a little surprised it's Vance who got on the practice squad and not Middy. Not every day a fifth-rounder at a thin position gets dropped like that, but William did not help his case.
Then again, his competition was pretty awful too, but that's once again going into the topic of a previous column and is therefore unnecessary. Just view my profile and catch up if you're that interested!
I was pretty sure Brock was a good enough athlete to spend some time on, but now both he and Jamaal Fudge are gone. This more or less guarantees William Moore will see considerable playing time; he must be totally healed and doing pretty well in practice, as we fans have seen very little of him in-game.
Finally, I'll note that Keith Zinger, Thomas Johnson, and a personal fave of mine, Will Svitek, all held on. The fact that these guys persist while others at their positions were dropped (TEs Ben Hartsock and Jason Rader, Walker, and OLs Jose Valdez and Michael Butterworth) says a lot about the coaching staff's faith in them, needless to say.