We should start getting news on roster cuts soon. Last thoughts...
Dunta Robinson had expected to play last night. The word from Dimitroff was that he was ready to go. It wasn't health reasons that kept him out - it was simply that Mike Smith decided to rest him along with John Abraham and Curtis Lofton rather than risk anything happening to the $50 million free agent CB.
Matt Bryant didn't shank any of his shorter kicks against the Jaguars the way he did that extra point against the Dolphins. But he still hasn't shown he's reliable from longer distances - and his troubles from 40+ were why the Buccaneers decided to go another direction in the first place.
I don't think the Falcons are actually LOOKING to replace him right away, but in light of Jason Elam's woes last year, they're likely to stay on top of things a little better in 2010 than they did in 2009. The most interesting situation is that Kris Brown is now on the open market.
Also, expect to see some of the top rookie prospects become available this weekend. Atlanta went with Garrett Lindholm, who made the ESPN highlights because of that last second 60+ yarder in the playoffs. But Lindholm really wasn't among the top 3 or 4 prospects. The coaches would rather not be forced to go with a rookie, but if it came down to that, at least there are some better ones likely to be available.
Interesting twist... Corey Peters wasn't able to play last night.
Since Jonathan Babineaux is out just one game, the Falcons will have to decide whether to keep a fourth DT on the roster for the season opener. Babs doesn't count towards the roster for that week. The key question (and no one who actually knows is talking) will be the health status of Peters.
The Falcons typically keep three DTs active, with the fourth as one of the eight inactive players. So if they keep all four other DTs for the opener, odds are that one of them would have to go when Babs returns for week two. Best guess is that Trey Lewis has beaten out Vance Walker for the true #4 spot (and possibly even Peters for the #3 spot as well).
So if Peters is healthy enough to play, the team might keep just Peria Jerry, Lewis and Peters for the opener, with Jamaal Anderson sliding in to DT in the 4-2-5 nickel package or on other passing situations. That would allow the team to keep an extra WR for the first week, when the status of Michael Jenkins is still uncertain.
The likely odd man out is Walker. He'd be on the inactive list for the opener anyway, so there wouldn't be that much point in keeping him on the roster just to bump him out a week later. If Peters is healthy, Walker probably starts the year on the practice squad.
But if it looks like Peters might not be ready to go (and we won't know until well after the rosters are in), they'd need Walker to fill out the rotation. Peters would start the season as the #4 on the inactive list while he recovers. Any extra roster spots would have to be squeezed from other units.
I have no info whatsoever on Peters. Pure guess = he's still questionable, and Walker sticks for the opener.
Michael Palmer was a go-to guy for Chris Redman last night, and JPW threw a couple to him as well. He's definitely going to stick, be it on the practice squad or on the main roster.
The sticky part of putting him ahead of Keith Zinger on the roster is that the #3 TE has major blocking and special teams duties. Those are areas where Zinger stands out.
The part that didn't make a whole lot of sense was that the commentators referred to Palmer as a kid who needed to add some bulk to make it long term. Huh??? Okay, he's a youngster. But he's already bigger than either Zinger or Peelle. I'll take that remark as random lunacy by our preseason announcers (WXIA's Randy Waters and NFL-N's Brian Baldinger). If he really does add some upper body strength, look out. The kid will be a beast.
I'm still not comfortable with the idea of knocking what Dimitroff called the consummate blocker off the roster, but I'll go ahead and fill in Palmer as the #3 TE on my mock roster. He managed to get open and was targeted throughout the preseason. Zinger did get on the field, but you'd never know it unless you were specifically looking for him.
Spencer Adkins got banged up a bit last night. Unless it's a season-ending thing, I'm not expecting any official word on him until Wednesday. But I think he has made the roster. If he's not seriously hurt (it might have just been a cramp) it won't matter that he got banged up - as the #6 LB, he'd be on the inactive list for the first week anyway.
Bear Woods played well this preseason. I doubt he made the roster, but I'm comfortable filling his name in for a practice squad spot.
I don't think any of the RB/FB trio nailed down the #5 job. I haven't seen enough from Dimitri Nance to make me entirely comfortable with him, but I do like his versatility: he was successful in several short yardage situations, including two touchdown runs, and he did well catching passes out of the backfield. But he had too many unsuccessful rushing attempts. He didn't win the job outright.
Antone Smith was the team's leading rusher in preseason, but he messed up several reception opportunities, had a critical fumble last night, and also muffed a kickoff return opportunity. Saving grace: he did well picking up a blitz late in the game. The Falcons are looking for their backup RBs to be capable of pass protection.
Dan Klecko had looked fairly solid throughout the preseason - until halftime last night. He didn't play all that well in the second half, plus he's a pure fullback (at least on offense - he's also a defensive lineman). He can block (and tackle), but he can't catch very well and won't get any opportunities to carry the ball. That makes him as useful as Verron Haynes, though better on special teams - which wouldn't matter as he'd be a fixture on the inactive list until someone got hurt.
And of course the biggest question is whether the team will even keep a fifth runner to start the year. If they go with just four (preferring to keep an extra wideout while Jenks is banged up or go with an extra offensive lineman or DB for the long haul), I think I'd pick Nance for the practice squad.
If they go with five, it's a toss-up between Smith and Nance for the roster. The other would be a strong candidate for the practice squad.
The next rough decision will be in the secondary. If Brian Williams is healthy enough for the main roster - and based on last night's game, it looks like he is - the team is carrying six CBs and ten total DBs. And that's not even counting prospects Dominique Daniels, Rafael Bush and Eric Brock.
Now that safety Matt Giordano is gone, the guy whose chair is getting the hottest should be cornerback Chevis Jackson. CJack was a disappointment in his second season last year, and he really struggled in coverage throughout the preseason.
(My take... he's playing way too soft, giving receivers far too much cushion. He doesn't have the recovery speed for that. His only chance is to play physical and jam his man at the line. If he's going to start out five yards off his receiver, he's basically just Chris Houston without the stupid attitude.)
But CJack might still have a chance, as he is a strong contributor on special teams (including a gunner-blocker on the punt return unit). He might stick with an at-large roster spot specifically for his special teams role.
Smitty won't comment on Michael Jenkins until the first official injury report on Wednesday. The unofficial word is that the coaching staff is hoping (but not certain) that he'll be available against the Steelers, or at the very least against the Cardinals in the second game.
At wide receiver, the main guy who opened some eyes last night was Ryan Wolfe, who had two 20+ yard receptions plus a third shorter reception. (Unfortunately, WXIA's coverage had sideline interviews during two of his three receptions, so he didn't get the attention he deserved from the announcing crew.)
Meanwhile, Brandyn Harvey had received most of the attention among the trio of undrafted receiving prospects. Harvey had a game he'd rather forget. Harvey was targeted five times but came away with one reception for only three yards. He had another catch but pushed off unnecessarily, getting called for an offensive pass interference penalty that killed a drive. He was also flagged for a holding call downfield that wiped out a long touchdown run by Jerious Norwood. (Atlanta had to settle for a field goal on that drive - and ended up losing by four points.)
I'm not picking any of the trio to make the roster, and I'm not sure they'll beat out Andy Strickland or other prospects from around the league for a practice squad job either (remember - we don't HAVE to sign our own guys to those spots). But I'm leaning towards putting Wolfe's name ahead of Harvey's on the list of prospects. It might not seem right to think the coaching staff will make a decision based on just one game, but that was the ONLY game where Wolfe got real playing time, and he really made the most of it.
Brett Romberg stepped up and played better on the o-line last night than in the previous exhibitions. Key question... is that enough for him to stick around? He can play guard or center, but was signed mainly to be our backup center last year (ultimately beating out Alex Stepanovich and Ben Wilkerson after Jeremy Newberry decided to retire).
But the Falcons braintrust decided to look elsewhere for its center of the future, drafting Joe Hawley in the fourth round. Will the team keep them both? Will Svitek appears to have won the swing tackle position, as he's now the only backup with experience at LT. Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson both play tackle and guard - and both appear to be ahead of both Hawley and Romberg at guard.
So Romberg's best shot would be if the team decides to keep ten offensive linemen - and if they decide to make the tenth man an extra C/G rather than an extra T/G. If they wanted another T/G, the extra guy would be Jose Valdez, who got his first chance to play LT last night (having previously played RT and RG) and performed quite well.
That one would be a virtual toss-up. Boudreau likes the idea of keeping ten guys and also likes the idea of being three-deep across the board. Keeping Romberg as the #10 would achieve that. But Valdez is a far better long term prospect than Romberg, who has little upside and who is a free agent after this season anyway.
My guess: they start the season with nine. Romberg is out, and Valdez starts the year on the practice squad. Svitek, Reynolds, Johnson and Hawley are the backups. Valdez gets called up before the end of the season though, regardless of whether or not someone gets hurt.
The team's official web site is really driving me nuts. The new format is bad enough, but it's just plain PATHETIC when a team's very own web site can't get the basic facts right. Even now, their "official" roster still includes offensive lineman Mark Ortmann (who was briefly signed for depth for the Miami game and was immediately released afterwards) and leaves out CB Dominique Daniels (who got extensive playing time in the second half last night).
Several players have no ages listed, Justin Peelle still has no position, and the rookies are listed as "1" under experience the same as the second year guys. In other words, Sean Weatherspoon, Corey Peters, etc have the same amount of experience as Chris Owens, John Parker Wilson, Lawrence Sidbury, etc.
JMike, we miss you buddy. The web site has completely sucked ever since you left.