When the smoke cleared Saturday, all six rookies selected by the Falcons in the 2017 draft were still around after the team trimmed its preseason roster to the final 53 in preparation for the season opener next Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
In addition to the six rookies, the team kept only four of the free agent signees. Linebacker Jermaine Grace, a undrafted free agent out of Miami (FL), became this season’s Brian Poole by snagging a roster spot. Head Coach Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and linebacker coach Jeff Ulbricht took a long look at the few prospects they brought into camp at the linebacker position.
Rookies Duke Riley, Sean Harlow, and Takk McKinley seemed destined to make the team from the first day of camp.
After Thursday’s final preseason game against the Jaguars, Quinn was excited about Grace’s play. “We were encouraged to see the speed that he (Grace) could play with,” said Quinn. “Our linebackers can run. That’s from top to bottom. The speed that they play with shows up on tape. It shows up on the way they hit. It shows up on the way they go after the ball.”
To be a linebacker on the Falcons squad, you must be able to run with speed, hit the ball carrier, and get after the ball.
Veteran free agents Jack Crawford, Austin Pasztor, and Andre Roberts join The Brotherhood donning the red and black this season. It was unlikely Pasztor would get swept with the chaff after having played next to Alex Mack on the offensive line in Cleveland. Defensive end Crawford made the most of his third team opportunity. The former Dallas Cowboy made a lot of noise in the preseason. “He looked very disruptive in the run game and in the pass game,” said coach Quinn of Crawford’s play. “That’s what jumped out to us.” Crawford’s ability to affect the opposition’s play and his physical versatility. As a 6’5” defensive tackle, he presents a challenge for opposing quarterbacks in the passing lanes with his quickness and length.
Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Andre Roberts became the only addition to Matt Ryan’s arsenal. Roberts beat out competing rookies Reggie Davis and Marvin Hall for the coveted spot. Hall, along with five other rookies, was named to the practice squad.
This morning defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman was given his official release. Hageman was placed on the NFL exempt list pending a review of domestic violence allegations stemming from an incident with his girlfriend Janeal Jefferies in her home. The Falcons released a statement this morning that the decision was made to terminate Hageman’s contract after a thorough investigative review of the circumstances by local authorities.
Atlanta also completed filling out its practice squad. Joe Vellano and Joshua Perkins return to the practice squad. Wide receiver Marvin Hall cleared waivers and will remain with the organization. Running back Jhurell Pressley will occupy the practice squad spot once held by Terron Ward. Ward’s performance at the end of last season and during preseason secured the third-year back a spot on the 53-man roster. Former British rugby player Alex Gray was named to the practice squad but is exempted from the 10-player limit because of his international ties.
Falcons Practice Squad
Joe Vellano, DL
Taniela Tupou, DL
Joshua Perkins, TE
Jhurell Pressley, RB
Marvin Hall*, WR
Deante Burton*, WR
Daniel T Brunskill*, OL
Marcelis Branch*, DB
Alex Gray*, TE (International player exemption)
Martin Ifedi, DE
Josh Keyes, LB
Josh Magee, WR
Matt Simms, QB
Quincy Mauger*, S
Jalen Collins, DB
Hot off the Wire
Defensive end Chris Odom didn’t have time to unpack after being cut from the Falcons. The Green Bay Packers picked up the 2017 undrafted free agent less than 24 hours after he was placed on waivers. Cleveland picked up University of Georgia undrafted free agent Reggie Davis from the waiver wire.
List of Players who were on the Super Bowl Roster but are not returning for 2017
Chris Chester, OL (Retired)
Tom Compton, OL (Chicago Bears)
Patrick DiMarco, FB (Buffalo)
Dwight Freeney, DL
Dashon Goldson, S
Tyson Jackson, DL
DJ Tialavea, TE/OL
Ra’Shede Hageman, DL
Aldrick Robinson, WR (SF 49ers)
Eric Weems, WR (Tennessee Titans)
Philip Wheeler, LB (Arizona Cardinals)
Paul Worrilow, LB (Detroit Lions)