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  • How Jack Crawford’s unconventional journey set the stage for his impressive 2018 season
    by Allen Strk on July 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images From watching football movies to working with top coaches, it took some time for Jack Crawford to find his niche in the sport. He discusses how he got into football growing up in London to signing with Atlanta in 2017. Most successful NFL players have fascinating journeys. Whether they weren’t heavily recruited in college or drafted in the first few rounds, the story of someone exceeding expectations and establishing themselves in the league is normally inspiring. When the player was born outside of the United States, his road to success becomes even more compelling. Jack Crawford has proven to be one of those players. The versatile defensive lineman was born in London, England. He is one of the five current players in the NFL from England. Considering the popularity of world football (soccer) and other sports, you wouldn’t expect most athletes from England to pursue American football. Although the NFL has built a massive audience in England, they didn’t start hosting games there until 2007. Crawford had already moved to the United States at that point. The sport didn’t receive much attention during his time living there. It didn’t stop him from becoming aware of it, and eventually wanting to become more involved in it. From film to football “Everything I knew about the sport growing up came from movies,” Crawford said laughing. “Any Given Sunday and Remember The Titans come to mind as influential movies. I still didn’t have an understanding of the sport itself from watching it. Those movies were simply the most exposure I had to it. There were other things too. I used to play NFL Blitz and Madden on PlayStation. That helped me get more exposure to it. I didn’t get serious about the sport until I came to the United States.” “I started watching college football on TV. The first actual game I watched was the Rose Bowl between Texas and USC. That was the first time I really wanted to learn the rules of the sport. I was 16 years old at the time. I had just come to the country and was fascinated watching the game. It was so epic. I needed to learn more about it. Basketball was actually my first sport. It was my first love. After watching a game like that, it drew me into watching football more often.” Crawford moved from London to Richland, New Jersey. While attending St. Augustine Preparatory School, he decided to play football, and he quickly found success lining up as a defensive end. What surprises most people is when they find out he also played wide receiver. Crawford enjoyed taking on the challenges of playing offense and defense. As he started to assess his options for college, he ultimately realized what his main positional preference was. “I actually played wide receiver in high school,” Crawford stated. “A couple of colleges were interested in using me as a slot receiver, but most of them wanted me to play tight end. That was going to be a difficult transition because I was never good at blocking. It was something I struggled to do.” “When I got to college, I learned more about football in general. It made me realize I preferred playing defense. I liked the fact that you don’t have to rely on anyone else in certain situations. Of course, you rely on your fellow defensive linemen and other players. It’s not like on offense though, where you are depending on the quarterback to make plays. There is a lot more dependence as a wide receiver or tight end, compared to playing on the defensive line. You can control your fate a little bit more on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what drew my interest to the position.” Making the leap Despite his desire to to play defensive end, Crawford was unsure if the coaching staff would comply. He had only been playing the sport for approximately three years. For all his talent, he was still relatively new to the game. That’s why he remained open-minded going into his freshman year of college. Committing to a program like Penn State immediately makes you want to be a team player. It took some time for the coaching staff to determine where Crawford’s future would be. They eventually decided he would play where he wanted to play. “It came right after my first training camp in college,” Crawford said. “Joe Paterno called me into his office. It was the weekend after training camp. I wanted to head back to see my host family that I was living with in New Jersey for the weekend. The coaching staff was telling everyone not to leave town. I remember being on the way out. All of a sudden, Paterno called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble for some reason. I was actually called into his office because he wanted me to play my freshman year instead of redshirting.” “The coaching staff wanted me to play tight end. I figured it was cool, especially if I actually get to play. After the weekend ended, coach told me to go back to defensive end. The defensive line coach really wanted me to play defense. Everything worked out in the end, but it’s one of those things I look back on and definitely think about.” After earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2009 and 2011, Crawford was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft. He only played two seasons for the Raiders. They decided to waive him on August 30th, 2014. It didn’t take long for Crawford to join another team, as the Cowboys signed him three days later. Signing with them proved to be the move that helped him find his niche. The persistent pass rusher got to work with Rod Marinelli, who is regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the league. Learning from him gave Crawford the boost he needed to make his mark. “I owe a lot to him (Marinelli) in terms of the direction in which my career went,” Crawford said. “I always had athleticism on my side, but I definitely needed more guidance. He did that by making the game easier for me. The way you do that is by speeding up yourself. The faster you go, the quicker you’re going to get comfortable playing at a certain speed. He taught me how not to think.” “Playing defensive line is a position where you can’t afford to think. A lot of the problems that I find with younger players in every position, but especially across the defensive line, are that they think too much. They overthink by trying to do everything perfectly. When you’re a defensive lineman, you are never going to be perfect.” “Younger players tend to think, and it leads to them being a step slower. You immediately recognize it on tape. It can cost you a play during a big moment. When it comes down to it, you just have to go and react. It’ll help you get better over time. He is someone that taught me how to play with this mindset. I definitely owe a lot to him.” Days in Dallas Crawford worked his way into becoming a key figure in Dallas’ defensive line rotation. Marinelli used him in multiple areas across the defensive line. To possess the versatility to play multiple positions is something that will always interest Dan Quinn. His defensive line rotations are known for going seven to eight players deep. That is why players such as Adrian Clayborn are so valuable in his scheme. The ability to rush outside, yet also cause havoc inside is an excellent trait to have in your repertoire. That played a major role in the Falcons wanting to sign Crawford. Between the contract offer and Quinn’s overall scheme, the incentives were there for the former fifth round pick to join the 2017 NFC champions. “Obviously, there were financial reasons behind the decision,” Crawford said chuckling. “It was one of the best options I had. What also really stood out about joining them was from watching one particular game. I rarely watch football on TV. I rarely watch other defenses. I did watch the Super Bowl in 2017. I loved watching the Falcons’ defense get after it. It was one of the systems coming from Dallas that I can honestly see myself playing in. I love the way they play as a group. They play with a lot of effort, while generating penetration and creating disruption. That’s the style of play and mindset I like to play with.” “Not every team has that mindset. Not every defensive scheme carries that with them. That’s why I was so intrigued by Atlanta. Their system suited me best. They play how the game should be played. It’s how football is most fun. To have that attacking mindset is the most enjoyable way to play football. Dan Quinn fully believes in that. Seeing how his defense plays really stood out to me on tape. It was a great fit for me. I was really excited when everything came together.” The Falcons signed Crawford to a three year, $10.3 million dollar deal in 2017. Signing him and Dontari Poe, along with drafting Takkarist McKinley, helped the Falcons build a suddenly formidable defensive line. Pairing Crawford with Clayborn or Grady Jarrett inside in nickel and dime packages generated plenty of excitement about the defensive line’s capabilities. Unfortunately, the versatile defensive lineman tore his biceps against the Bills in Week 4. A season-ending injury could damage a player’s entire outlook. The devastating injury ended up refreshing Crawford’s outlook. “It was tough, considering it was my first year with the team,” Crawford said. “I was obviously excited about the new opportunity. It was tough to see it cut short. At the same time, it was the longest I had been in my career without playing. Funny enough, that break away from football for nine months helped me greatly. Not putting pads on and doing the things you normally do as a player felt okay.” “Having that time away helped me grow mentally. I picked up a lot from watching everything around me. Some of the differences in coaching coming from Dallas to Atlanta helped me hone in on my overall ability. Taking the physical and athletic parts of my game to help build on everything mentally was important.” “I really believe I grew a lot during that time period. I realized that I had a lot to prove going into 2018. Coming off a good pre-season in 2017, but then for my season to get cut short gave me plenty of motivation. Not making much of an impact in the four games I played in during the season was another thing I used for motivation as well. There is nothing that can really mimic that kind of motivation. The feeling of having your back against the wall is something you can use for fuel. That was my approach going into 2018. Using my time away from the field in 2017, along with putting some things into practice helped me take my game to another level.” Editor’s Note: That concludes part one of my interview with Jack Crawford. Part two will be published on Monday. […]

  • Falcoholinks: All the Falcons news you need for Thursday, July 18
    by Carter Breazeale on July 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images New contracts and notes as training camp approaches. Lots of contract talk today with the extensions of Grady Jarrett right at zero hour and Deion Jones yesterday evening. Dive in to Thursday’s Falcoholinks to learn more. Grady’s payday You can finally exhale, Falcoholics, because they key cog on Atlanta’s defensive line put pen to paper before Monday’s deadline and signed a new four-year deal. The Falcons can now count on Grady Jarrett’s talents through at least 2022, and can scratch one of the major line items off of their offseason to-do list. It’s obviously a massive (and slightly unexpected) development for the team to have Grady Jarrett locked up, and now that’s done, what does it mean for the Falcons? We’re elated. Debo’s payday What a great damn day for the Atlanta Falcons’ future. With Grady Jarrett signed to an extension, the Falcons immediately turned their attention to otherworldly linebacker Deion Jones. Jones is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Atlanta would be absolutely out of its mind if they allowed him to even sniff the open market. That thankfully didn’t happen, as Deion was inked to a four-year, $57 million extension that will keep him in an Atlanta uniform through 2023. This is considerably lower than what many of us anticipated, as Ravens linebacker seemed to set the market with his five-year, $85 million extension earlier in the year. Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett are arguably the two most important members of the Atlanta Falcons defense, and now they’re both sticking around for awhile. Julio, you’re on deck. Matty Ice moments Our own Adnan Ikic has been charting the career of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in his “Matty Ice Moments” series, and this week he looked at Ryan’s 2012 season — the one where he broke the single-season franchise record for passing yards and passing touchdowns. 2012 was Atlanta’s best season since the 1998 run that culminated in a Super Bowl berth. It, like 1998, also ended on a sour note, but Matt Ryan’s progression that year elevated him into the conversation of the league’s top quarterbacks. Roster projections There are numerous players who will be entering camp well aware that if they do not make an impact they could find themselves looking for a new team. With that in mind, The Falcoholic’s Kevin Knight is out with his projection for Atlanta’s 53-man roster projection. […]

  • Falcons and LB Deion Jones agree to 4-year, $57 million deal
    by Evan Birchfield on July 17, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images Atlanta surprisingly gets a deal done quickly, locking up their star linebacker for years to come. The Atlanta Falcons have signed linebacker Deion Jones to a new contract. After locking-up defensive tackle Grady Jarrett this offseason, the team turned their attention to securing arguably the leader of the defense, Deion Jones. They got the contract done a lot faster than any of us would have anticipated. Falcons are signing LB Deion Jones a four-year, $57 million extension, including $34 million guaranteed, @RosenhausSports tells ESPN. Jones is now tied to the Falcons through the 2023 season.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 17, 2019 Deion Jones is one of the best linebackers in the league, and the team made the wise decision to keep him well into the future. Debo is only 25 years old, and although he had a major injury in 2018, he still performed at a top level in six games. Simply put, the defense isn’t as good as it is without his sideline-to-sideline coverage ability, speed, and knack for timely turnovers. Locking him and Jarrett up and investing resources in the secondary should give the Falcons the foundation for a good-to-great defense going forward. It’s exciting news, and we congratulate Debo on his deal. He’s more than deserving, and the Falcons were wise to extend another core member of their defense right before training camp. […]

  • How elite receivers age and what it might mean for Julio Jones
    by Dave Choate on July 17, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images Julio’s one-of-a-kind, but we can still get a good idea of when he’s likely to decline. The question on many peoples’ minds as we edge closer to a new contract for Julio Jones is this: How long can he keep doing this, and will he remain one of the NFL’s best receivers through another deal and perhaps beyond? Answering that question for Julio, who is a wizard who works exceptionally hard to take care of himself and has physical tools that we rarely see, is a tough one. The best we can really do is look at the history of receivers aging, when their decline tends to hit, and what some future or current Hall of Famers comparable to Julio managed to do. Let’s do that now, ahead of what will hopefully be a shortly announced extension for #11. When does a decline set in? It goes without saying that there’s variability here, but the average decline phase for a wide receiver begins at 28 and is in rapid freefall if that player is still going at 34. Most receivers are cooked by the age of 34, and for every Jerry Rice playing at a reasonably high level at age 40, there’s dozens of receivers who enjoy their last great year between 32-34. That was true for Isaac Bruce (age 34), Tim Brown (34, though he had another nice year at 35), Marvin Harrison (34), Reggie Wayne (34), and so on. Larry Fitzgerald is still doing terrific work for the Cardinals and is limited by his quarterback situation, but his last “great” year (more than 10 yards per reception, more than 6 TDs, 75% catch rate) by his standards came when he was 32. Guys like Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Andre Reed saw real decline hit around age 32. Wide receivers age much more gracefully than many other positions, however, and there’s considerable variability to discuss here. Receivers are playing longer and better thanks to advances in medicine, conditioning, and the evolution of the game in a direction that leads to them taking fewer hard hits, and in the last 20 years we’ve begun to see more receivers stretch it out a little more if they can avoid major injuries. What does that mean for Julio? No one knows how long Jones wants to play. He’s coming into his age 30 season on pace to etch his name in the record books, and no doubt he’s hungry to win a Super Bowl like so many of his teammates. But there’s no guarantee that if he signs a four or five year extension that he’ll choose to play through the end of it, given that he’s a guy with a lot of irons in the fire. Let’s assume he does, though, both because he’s chasing records and he’ll hopefully be playing at a high level through the life of the contract. Will he still be Julio by the end of it? First of all, we should start by saying there’s no sign that Julio is declining. At age 29 in 2018, he posted the third-best catch rate of his career, the second-highest yardage, and tied for the second highest number of touchdown receptions. He is an elite talent whose hands and route running figure to help him age well, even if the stellar physical tools start to disappear over time. There’s no reason to think that’s going to happen before, say, the age 32 season where many Hall of Famers of yore saw the decline hit. At that point, Julio will be in his third year of his new deal, whatever form it might take. If the precipitous decline sets in at 34 as it has for still others, it’ll likely be in the final year of Julio’s deal, allowing he and the Falcons to take stock of what’s next But there’s one specific players that I think Julio is probably looking to emulate, and he likely represents a best-case scenario Terrell Owens Why is Julio Jones spending so much time with Terrell Owens, who is regarded by some fans as a prima donna? It may have something to do with his legendary fitness and longevity as an NFL receiver, as he wrapped up at 37 still playing really well. Owens wasn’t quite the same guy after 34, just like Moss, as his catch percentages began to drop and his overall numbers took an according hit. He still finished his final, age 37 season with 72 receptions for 983 yards and seven touchdowns, phenomenal numbers for guys under 30 and eye-popping for him. Owens achieved this by having a well-rounded skill set and keeping himself in phenomenal shape, though having a chip on his shoulder at all times probably didn’t hurt. Owens is the best-case scenario for Julio as a truly elite receiver who overcame some injury issues in his early 30s to remain a terrific player up until the end. If Julio’s still going at 37, he’s a slam dunk Hall of Famer, but he’s also going to be able to help this football team win a lot more games. Let’s hope it happens. […]

  • Falcons 53-man roster projection: Pre-Camp Edition
    by Kevin Knight on July 17, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Training camp is only a few days away, which means it’s time for another edition of our Falcons’ 53-man roster projection (with practice squad)! Atlanta Falcons training camp is officially only a few days away. We also just got the news that Grady Jarrett signed a 4-year extension, eliminating that potential 2020 problem before it could even begin. In other words, it’s all good here at The Falcoholic. But before we get training camp kicked off in earnest, it’s time for another early 53-man roster projection (plus practice squad)! I’ll do my best to predict Atlanta’s final roster based on who is currently under contract, and I’ll probably be very, very wrong. Oh well, it’s part of the fun. In case you missed it, here is the previous edition: Absurdly Early Edition Changes from my last projection will be marked with italics. OFFENSE - 25 QB - 2 Matt RyanMatt Schaub Matt Ryan is #elite and is, of course, the locked-in starter for the Falcons. While it’s possible that second-year QB Kurt Benkert could win the backup job in camp, Matt Schaub is still the favorite—particularly with his significantly cheaper cap hit this season ($1.4M in 2019 versus $4.5M in 2018). RB - 4 Devonta FreemanIto SmithQadree OllisonBrian Hill We’ll all be hoping that Devonta Freeman returns to full health and effectiveness this season, as he’s the unquestioned starter heading into camp. The primary backup is likely to be second-year RB Ito Smith, who has a similar running style to Freeman and was a solid contributor in 2018. Rookie Qadree Ollison will take on the short-yardage role, and could also push Ito for snaps at RB2. With the Falcons unlikely to carry a FB in 2019, the door is open for third-year RB Brian Hill—who had a strong performance to close out 2018—to reclaim his spot on the roster. TE - 4 Austin HooperLuke StockerEric SaubertLogan Paulsen Austin Hooper is the locked-in TE1 after posting a career year as both a receiver and a blocker in 2018. Luke Stocker is one of the Falcons’ biggest FA additions—he’s a versatile blocker who can line up inline or as a FB, and can also contribute in the passing game. 2019 is Eric Saubert’s time to shine—he needs to prove that he can take the next step as a blocker and receiver to earn a second contract from the Falcons. Blocking specialist Logan Paulsen was re-signed after being allowed to test free agency, which likely signals a lot of 2-TE sets this season. WR - 6 Julio JonesCalvin RidleyMohamed SanuRussell GageMarcus GreenKahlil Lewis The strongest position on Atlanta’s roster and arguably the best group in the league, the Falcons have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu form a dynamic trio that will be the backbone of Atlanta’s offense in 2019. Second-year WR Russell Gage is likely to take on a much larger role this season with another year of coaching under his belt. Rookie WR/RB Marcus Green is the favorite to win the return job, and he offers impressive athleticism and receiving ability from both positions. I’m going to make a bold prediction here and say that Justin Hardy will lose his roster spot to UDFA WR Kahlil Lewis—a deep threat with excellent hands and more impressive athleticism. OL - 9 LT Jake MatthewsLG James CarpenterC Alex MackRG Chris LindstromRT Kaleb McGary G Jamon BrownC/G Wes SchweitzerG/T Ty SambrailoOT Matt Gono The Falcons suddenly have a plethora of depth on the offensive line after an offseason that saw the team add two starting-caliber guards in free agency and two first round picks. LT Jake Matthews and C Alex Mack are the only returning starters from 2018, and they’re both very good. The rookie duo seems to be getting their starting reps on the right side, with Chris Lindstrom at RG and Kaleb McGary at RT, and both are the favorites at their respective positions. LG will come down to the two free agents: James Carpenter has experience and better pass protection on his side, while Jamon Brown has youth, contract, and powerful run blocking in his corner. That one is a true toss-up. With so much depth, the Falcons are going to be keeping at least 9 OL in 2019. The loser of the LG battle is likely to be the primary interior backup. Wes Schweitzer has apparently been cross-training extensively at C, and he’s likely to be depth behind Mack. Ty Sambrailo just signed a new deal and proved he could be a solid starter at both guard and tackle—he’ll be the swing tackle in 2019. The final spot is a toss-up, but I’d expect 2018 UDFA Matt Gono to hold on to his roster spot. The Falcons have invested significant time in developing him, and I think they’d like to continue on that path. DEFENSE - 25 EDGE - 5 Vic BeasleyTakkarist McKinleyAdrian ClaybornJohn CominskyChris Odom The position with the most variance on the defense is undoubtedly EDGE, where the Falcons have significant question marks but also a lot of potential. Vic Beasley is currently the most hated man on Atlanta’s roster due to his high cap hit ($12.8M) despite his mediocre play over the past two seasons. The Falcons desperately need him to rebound in 2019. Takkarist McKinley had an impressive second season in 2018, and will likely finish 2019 as the Falcons’ best pass rusher. Adrian Clayborn returns after a year with the Patriots, where he will reprise his role as the 3rd EDGE and a nickel interior rusher. Rookie John Cominsky could play at either EDGE or DT—but his snaps will likely be limited this year. Chris Odom makes his comeback after an impressive stint in the AAF (RIP), where he’ll provide solid depth for the Falcons after the loss of Steven Means. DT - 4 Grady JarrettJack CrawfordDeadrin SenatTyeler Davison Grady Jarrett just signed his 4-year extension, cementing him as a cornerstone of the Falcons’ DL for years to come. Jack Crawford will reprise his role as the secondary pass rusher opposite Grady in the nickel, where he had a career year in 2018 (6.0 sacks!). Second-year DT Deadrin Senat will be expected to contribute more in 2019, and I’m excited to see his development. Free agent addition Tyeler Davison will be Atlanta’s primary interior run stuffer—I’d expect to see a lot of him in the base defense alongside Senat to give Grady and Crawford a rest. With Adrian Clayborn and John Cominsky both able to play a little on the interior as well, I think the Falcons keep only 4 true DTs heading into 2019. LB - 5 Deion JonesDe’Vondre CampbellFoyesade OluokunBruce CarterJermaine Grace After being hit by injury in 2018, Deion Jones returned to have a solid close to the season. It’s incredible how much better the Falcons looked with him back on the field, and he should be fully healthy for 2019. De’Vondre Campbell is heading into a contract year, and while he’s consistently played at an above-average level, this is his chance to prove to Atlanta (and other teams) that he’s worth a big deal in 2020. Second-year LB Foyesade Oluokun, who seized the starting WILL role from Duke Riley and never looked back, is expected to remain the starter in 2019. Veteran Bruce Carter looked solid when pressed into duty last season, and his value as a versatile and trustworthy backup should give him a leg up for a roster spot. LB5 is going to be a fierce competition, with players like Duke Riley, Kemal Ishmael, and UDFA Tre Crawford battling it out. I do expect Jermaine Grace, who is returning to Atlanta after a brief stint in Indianapolis, to win out—his blend of athleticism and coverage ability makes him a perfect fit for the Falcons. CB - 6 Desmond TrufantIsaiah OliverDamontae KazeeBlidi Wreh-WilsonKendall SheffieldJordan Miller CB is going to look drastically different in 2019, as two starters (Robert Alford and Brian Poole) have been replaced. Desmond Trufant will continue to man the CB1 role, but second-year CB Isaiah Oliver will be starting opposite him on the outside. Damontae Kazee will be transitioning from FS to take over the slot CB role, where his ballhawking and tackling skills should come in handy. Behind them is the versatile Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who has proven himself a solid spot starter on the inside and outside. Rookies Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller will both serve as depth in 2019, but don’t be surprised if you see Quinn work them in throughout the season. S - 5 SS Keanu NealFS Ricardo Allen S Sharrod NeasmanS J.J. WilcoxS Chris Cooper Both Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are expected to be fully healthy in time for the regular season, and it also appears that both will be participating in the start of training camp. Having that dynamic duo on the back end of the defense will make a huge difference for Atlanta in 2019. Behind them, the Falcons have vastly improved depth. After the Jordan Richards experiment failed miserably, Sharrod Neasman won the starting job and looked solid. He’ll be Neal’s primary backup once more. Atlanta also brought in veteran J.J. Wilcox, who has played both safety spots, as additional depth. This fifth spot is likely the “final” spot on the roster and will come down to special teams acumen and developmental potential. Chris Cooper has flashed early in the offseason as a CB/S hybrid, and the team may be more willing to carry additional safety depth after what happened in 2018. SPECIAL TEAMS - 3 K Giorgio TavecchioP Matt BosherLS Josh Harris A major change to the special teams occurred when the Falcons parted ways with the legendary Matt Bryant. In his place is 2018 spot starter Giorgio Tavecchio, who looked good in limited action but is otherwise a bit of a question mark. Don’t expect him to be Bryant, but the Falcons under Dimitroff have had an uncanny ability to find good kickers. Matt Bosher returns as the punter, and he should be good once again in 2019. LS Josh Harris actually has competition this year in the form of UDFA Kyle Vasey, but I’d expect him to retain the job barring an injury. PRACTICE SQUAD - 10 QB Kurt Benkert - Benkert is the heir apparent for Schaub—the Falcons didn’t even bring in any other UDFAs to compete in camp. The big question is whether Benkert wins the battle this year, or if Schaub holds him off until 2020. RB Tony Brooks-James - Brooks-James was very impressive in OTAs and minicamp, and RB is volatile position with injuries. Expect the team to keep him close if he continues to look good. TE Jaeden Graham - I love Alex Gray’s story, but he’s got one thing working against him as a developmental TE: his age (28). Jaeden Graham, meanwhile, is only 23. Neither have really stood out, but Graham has the “intangible” leg up. WR Olamide Zaccheaus - Zaccheaus is a good WR, particularly for a UDFA add. The reason he might not make the roster is due to him being a very similar player to Gage and Green. I wouldn’t be shocked if Atlanta keeps him close, or if another team signs him after cuts. G Sean Harlow - Harlow has so far failed to impress the Falcons enough to keep him on the roster long-term. His saving grace is that he still has practice squad eligibility, and he’s a past draft pick. EDGE Durrant Miles - The Falcons seem to like Miles, but that’s basically all we have to go off of at this point. Preseason will tell us a lot about which EDGE is likely to stick on the practice squad. DT Justin Zimmer - Zimmer has incredible athletic gifts, but the Falcons are stacked at DT. He’ll be in a battle for the 5th DT spot (if the Falcons elect to keep one), but he should be ticketed for the practice squad again at worst. LB Tre’ Crawford - Crawford has a chance to be Campbell’s heir apparent. At 6’3, 236, he’s got a similar build and a similar skillset. He’s also very raw, just like Campbell coming out. If the Falcons can’t re-sign Campbell in 2020, Crawford could potentially step into the SLB role. CB Jayson Stanley - Dan Quinn loves his conversion projects, and I expect Jayson Stanley to continue that trend. Stanley is an excellent tackler and special teams player, but he’ll take some time to learn the ropes at CB. 2020 will be his chance to earn a roster spot. DB Rashard Causey - A versatile defensive back who reminds me a little of Brian Poole, Causey is a physical CB/S hybrid with a varied skillset. He can blitz, he’s got a nose for the ball (3 FF, 6 PD in 2018), and he’s a quality tackler. He could be a future depth option for Atlanta. As it was in 2018, the Falcons’ 2019 roster doesn’t have many unsettled roster spots. Still, there are a few intriguing battles to watch—and there are always surprise UDFAs that make the team (Richard Jarvis, anyone?). What are your thoughts on this early roster projection? Any players you’d move around? Favorites for the practice squad? […]

 

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