Goober Pyle

After two preseason games, here are the Falcons’ risers and sleepers you should know about

33 posts in this topic

https://theathletic.com/1128614/2019/08/09/after-two-preseason-games-here-are-the-falcons-risers-and-sleepers-you-should-know-about/

 

There is a long way to go before the Falcons’ 53-man roster is finalized.

But after two of Atlanta’s five preseason games, a few players have emerged either as borderline locks or ones to keep a closer eye on. While this does seem like the time of year to over-analyze, it’s hard to not notice certain players who continually make plays when their number is called upon.

Although the Falcons don’t have many starter jobs up for grabs, quite a few depth spots are there for the taking. Thus far, a few players on Atlanta’s preseason roster have done their part to stand out.

WR Russell Gage

There may not be a more improved player at any position on this roster than Gage. In college at LSU, Gage was used as a gadget option and didn’t put up eye-popping numbers. His special-teams play certainly earned the attention of the Falcons, who drafted him in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Gage, however, suddenly looks the part of a legitimate NFL receiver, at least through two preseason games. The thing is, he’s put up similar kinds of plays during OTAs, minicamp and training camp. It sure seems the Falcons have a reliable fourth option at receiver.

Gage has put forth two strong performances, with Thursday’s night exhibition against the Miami Dolphins showing that he could be relied upon more in his second year. Gage’s first catch saw him jump high to corral a Matt Schaub pass for 15 yards.

He finished with 33 yards and looks like someone who has all but locked up a spot on the 53-man roster.

RB Brian Hill

When the Falcons drafted Qadree Ollison, there was some question of what it meant for Hill. Hill is entering his third year in the NFL and is a part of what has turned into a crowded backfield behind Devonta Freeman. But in a situation where running backs need to separate themselves from one another, Hill has done just that.

Hill previously showcased an ability to be a bruising runner and someone who could be a short-yardage specialist. This preseason, Hill has displayed better speed and vision. His pass-catching has ramped up a notch, too.

Hill has spent a lot of time working on various areas of his game, and it shows in his play. Based on the early results, Hill is making a strong case for a roster spot.

OL Matt Gono

While Gono has yet to appear in a regular-season game, he remained on the 53-man roster every week of the 2018 regular season. He’s clearly a player the Falcons believe in. Before the preseason game Thursday against Miami, head coach Dan Quinn said Gono was standing out in practice.

Gono has worked primarily at left tackle this preseason but can play multiple positions. Toward the end of last season, Gono started cross-training at guard. Some of those reps came at the end of practice, in what’s called the Plan D period.

This is when developmental players — and anyone, really — get extra individual reps once the actual practice is over.
Gono got a start Thursday night and could be in line for a spot on the 53-man roster once again if he keeps trending the right way in the coaches’ eyes.

S Parker Baldwin

Of the undrafted rookies in this year’s class, Baldwin may be the one to keep the most focus on. With J.J. Wilcox (ACL) out for the year, Atlanta is searching for a backup strong safety. Baldwin earned a start against Miami and got a large number of reps at the position.

Baldwin occasionally has gotten time with the first team in practice, but this has come when Ricardo Allen (Achilles) and Keanu Neal (ACL) have been pulled for cautionary reasons related to their recoveries. It does look like the Falcons are willing to give Baldwin at least a look at being the backup strong safety.

Right after Wilcox’s injury, on the first day of training camp, the Falcons moved Kemal Ishmael from linebacker to safety. But against the Dolphins, Ishmael appeared to get most of his reps at linebacker. Baldwin certainly will be someone to monitor over the next three preseason games.

LB Jermaine Grace

Grace certainly helped his case for the 53-man roster after the game Thursday. The speedy linebacker, who played college ball at Miami, was able to record an interception in front of a number of family members in attendance at Hard Rock Stadium. Grace read Josh Rosen’s eyes, broke on the ball and came close to scoring a touchdown.

In today’s NFL, with offenses pass-heavy and spread out, Grace offers ideal sideline-to-sideline speed. He said the coaches want to use him in nickel situations to take advantage of his skills.

While the starting linebackers in Atlanta’s base package appear set with Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokun, Grace could certainly find a role as a rotational linebacker and on special teams.

WRs Marcus Green, Olamide Zaccheaus and Christian Blake

Similar to running back, the receiver position is suddenly crowded on the back end. Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley are guaranteed spots, obviously. Gage, as previously mentioned, appears set given his play of late. Justin Hardy knows the system and is reliable as a role player, which should give him an edge. If Gage and Hardy are the fourth and fifth receivers, there is probably only one spot for three candidates.

One would be Green, the sixth-round draft pick who is competing for the return jobs. Green, however, saw only nine plays on offense in the Hall of Fame Game and injured his hamstring. Zaccheaus and Blake, meanwhile, have had some standout moments this preseason.

Blake was on Atlanta’s practice squad last season and has made some great plays in practice. In the Hall of Fame Game, he had five catches for 46 yards and followed it up with three catches for 19 yards against Miami.

Zaccheaus followed his two-catch, 31-yard outing against Denver with two catches for 35 yards against Miami. Zaccheaus had a highlight-reel grab on the left sideline for 28 yards, too, adding intrigue to the possibility that he latches onto the final roster.

All three receivers will continue battling for one of the final spots during the next three weeks.

DE Austin Larkin

It’s probably too early to start discussing whether Larkin has a shot at the 53-man roster. But it’s noteworthy that Larkin, seemingly out of nowhere, recorded a sack on a nifty spin move and also had two key tackles early against the Dolphins. Larkin spent time with the Dallas Cowboys last preseason but ended up with the San Antonio Commanders in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

If anything, perhaps Larkin can soon guarantee a practice squad position based on the depth Atlanta has at defensive end. At the same time, if Larkin puts forth more performances like the one he had Thursday, Quinn and the defensive coaches might be forced to give him a closer look.

 

 

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Gono was really impressive in the first game but he had a penalty or two against Miami. He’s a big dude that has made blocks 5-6 yards from the line of scrimmage to spring the running backs on outside runs. 

Im looking forward to seeing what Larkin can do. I took some screen shots from the first defensive drive but they’re too large to upload. On every play we had guys 3-6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. They dominated the line of scrimmage and were getting consistent push. Hopefully next week they will finish more of those plays. 

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2 hours ago, DriveHomeSafelyAtlantaWins said:

Surprised he didn't point it out, but Parker Baldwin had a bad game. Still might make the 53 of course, but he didn't look good last night.

Yup. Game was too fast for him. Against the 1s that’s understandable. Against the 2s and 3s it means he’s gonna get cut. 

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2 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

I still expect us to get someone at cuts or trade for another safety, similar to Richards last year (but hopefully w better results)

Kazee aside I see no quality depth at safety (yet). Cooper looks the part as an athlete but he’s barely played in the NFL if at all. 

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Offense: I was impressed with Gage, he made a few clutch and aerobic catches along with Olamide Zaccheaus, Hardy was Ok but he's definitely going to be pushed down the WR pecking order by Gage Jr. Ty Sombrero looked passable at RT and didn't yield much pressure, and Hill looked OK at RB but he was not impressive. He goes down on first contact but he runs with purpose and has good hands. Shaub is starting to knock off some rust and look good. Our TEs looked good blocking for the run.

Gono, and Harlow looked bad. Gono was guilty of a hold, and yielded some pressure especially to Tank carradine. Ito Smith still makes rookie mistakes lining up.

 

Defense: Odom looks like a fantastic replacement for the eagles DE we just lost. Got 2 very good hits on the Qb, from what I've seen. He should definitely enter our DE rotatiojn, and he was not bad at all in run support.  Larkin looks like a stud LBer and should make the team, he is a stud at finding the ball and tackling the ball carrier. Grace looks good in pass situations. Tre Crawford #49 gets good pressure from DE but he makes stupid rookie decisions such as tackling the QB low after he releases the ball and is more like a vic Beasley Type. Takk looked awesome. Devondre Campbell needs to do a better job at getting off blocks and finding the ball. Blidi Wreh Wilson looked mediocre. Sheffield looked very good.

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6 hours ago, DriveHomeSafelyAtlantaWins said:

Surprised he didn't point it out, but Parker Baldwin had a bad game. Still might make the 53 of course, but he didn't look good last night.

Yep, looked like booty cheeks. I don't know what this dude was watching.

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16 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

WR Russell Gage

There may not be a more improved player at any position on this roster than Gage. In college at LSU, Gage was used as a gadget option and didn’t put up eye-popping numbers. His special-teams play certainly earned the attention of the Falcons, who drafted him in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Gage, however, suddenly looks the part of a legitimate NFL receiver, at least through two preseason games. The thing is, he’s put up similar kinds of plays during OTAs, minicamp and training camp. It sure seems the Falcons have a reliable fourth option at receiver.

Gage has put forth two strong performances, with Thursday’s night exhibition against the Miami Dolphins showing that he could be relied upon more in his second year. Gage’s first catch saw him jump high to corral a Matt Schaub pass for 15 yards.

@Vandy

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Gage has put forth two strong performances, with Thursday’s night exhibition against the Miami Dolphins showing that he could be relied upon more in his second year.

And this:

By Kevin Knight@FalcoholicKevin Aug 10, 2019, 12:00pm EDT

We’re officially through the Falcons’ first two preseason games, and one thing has become abundantly clear: Atlanta has a very talented roster this year, and no position is stronger than WR. The Falcons have an absurd amount of depth at the position, and their top-3 of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu are the most dangerous trio in the league.

Outside of those three, there’s a fierce competition taking shape for the final 2-3 spots on the Falcons’ 53-man roster. There are a lot of contenders, who I broke down in detail here, and only a few will end up making the cut. After a second preseason performance, the competition is simultaneously becoming clearer at the top and murkier at the bottom.

At the top, there were thought to be two serious contenders for the WR4 spot: second-year WR Russell Gage and veteran WR Justin Hardy. Hardy was presumed to be favorite, as he’s manned the role for several years and has always been a solid option at worst. Gage had a limited role during his rookie season, but began to earn more playing time towards the end of 2018.

When free agency kicked off, the Falcons let both Marvin Hall and Justin Hardy walk in free agency—which seemed to indicate that they were comfortable rolling with Gage and any rookies/UDFAs that they brought in. Despite re-signing Hardy for the veteran minimum after he tested the market, it seems pretty clear that Gage has the lead in the WR4 competition. Gage has been a lot more impressive in preseason and in training camp, getting a lot of first-team snaps in Julio Jones’ absence. Over two preseason games, Gage has 4 catches for 54 yards (13.5 average) despite playing only a handful of snaps—and those catches have been mighty impressive to boot.

Hardy, meanwhile, has been getting plenty of work with the second-team offense (and some with the first-team) in training camp. He continued to show off his smooth route running and excellent hands, but he may have to prove that he can be more than just a reliable option to win a roster spot with the bevy of talent the Falcons have behind him. He’s had a much slower start to the preseason, with only 2 catches for 9 yards (4.5 average) over two games. Like Gage, Hardy also hasn’t been getting a ton of work thus far—but Gage has clearly done more with his opportunities.

Speaking of talent, many of the Falcons’ other WRs have been impressing through two preseason games. UDFA Olamide Zaccheaus—who had a very productive college career and probably should’ve been drafted—currently leads the Falcons with 4 catches for 66 yards (16.5 average). Christian Blake, who was also with the Falcons during the 2018 preseason, is right on his heels with 8 catches for 65 yards (8.1 average). UDFA Kahlil Lewis had a quiet first game, but followed that up with a very nice second outing where he led Atlanta in receiving with 2 catches for 43 yards. He’s currently third on the team with 4 catches for 57 yards (14.3 average).

Those aren’t even the only guys that have flashed thus far. Small school prospect Shawn Bane had an impressive Hall of Fame game showing, but couldn’t do anything with his two targets against Miami. C.J. Worton has been earning more targets, but has also had his share of drops. We’ve barely gotten to see rookie Marcus Green in the preseason after he suffered a hamstring injury in the Hall of Fame game, but you’d have to think the Falcons would love to see him flash enough to earn a roster spot.

All of this points to a fierce WR competition that isn’t likely to be decided any time soon. I believe Russell Gage is pretty firmly entrenched at WR4, but the fifth and sixth spots are wide open. Veteran Justin Hardy and rookie Marcus Green should be considered the favorites, but I think there’s an opportunity for someone like Zaccheaus, Blake, or Lewis to claw their way onto the roster with solid showings throughout the three remaining preseason games.

What do you think of the Falcons’ depth at WR? Do you think Russell Gage has proven himself enough to be considered the WR4? Who would you like to see win the final two roster spots at WR?

https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2019/8/10/20706886/falcons-training-camp-2019-theres-a-fierce-competition-at-wr-russell-gage-olamide-zaccheaus

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Gage Jr. is a lock at the 4th wideout spot the way he’s been playing. 

Blake has looked good as well.

...and if Zaccheaus keeps making catches like he did in Miami, Hardy might slide to #6 or even find himself on waivers the way this young crop of receivers are flashing.

All in all...this is a GREAT problem to have!

 

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14 hours ago, Tim Mazetti said:

Gage has put forth two strong performances, with Thursday’s night exhibition against the Miami Dolphins showing that he could be relied upon more in his second year.

And this:

By Kevin Knight@FalcoholicKevin Aug 10, 2019, 12:00pm EDT

We’re officially through the Falcons’ first two preseason games, and one thing has become abundantly clear: Atlanta has a very talented roster this year, and no position is stronger than WR. The Falcons have an absurd amount of depth at the position, and their top-3 of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu are the most dangerous trio in the league.

Outside of those three, there’s a fierce competition taking shape for the final 2-3 spots on the Falcons’ 53-man roster. There are a lot of contenders, who I broke down in detail here, and only a few will end up making the cut. After a second preseason performance, the competition is simultaneously becoming clearer at the top and murkier at the bottom.

At the top, there were thought to be two serious contenders for the WR4 spot: second-year WR Russell Gage and veteran WR Justin Hardy. Hardy was presumed to be favorite, as he’s manned the role for several years and has always been a solid option at worst. Gage had a limited role during his rookie season, but began to earn more playing time towards the end of 2018.

When free agency kicked off, the Falcons let both Marvin Hall and Justin Hardy walk in free agency—which seemed to indicate that they were comfortable rolling with Gage and any rookies/UDFAs that they brought in. Despite re-signing Hardy for the veteran minimum after he tested the market, it seems pretty clear that Gage has the lead in the WR4 competition. Gage has been a lot more impressive in preseason and in training camp, getting a lot of first-team snaps in Julio Jones’ absence. Over two preseason games, Gage has 4 catches for 54 yards (13.5 average) despite playing only a handful of snaps—and those catches have been mighty impressive to boot.

Hardy, meanwhile, has been getting plenty of work with the second-team offense (and some with the first-team) in training camp. He continued to show off his smooth route running and excellent hands, but he may have to prove that he can be more than just a reliable option to win a roster spot with the bevy of talent the Falcons have behind him. He’s had a much slower start to the preseason, with only 2 catches for 9 yards (4.5 average) over two games. Like Gage, Hardy also hasn’t been getting a ton of work thus far—but Gage has clearly done more with his opportunities.

Speaking of talent, many of the Falcons’ other WRs have been impressing through two preseason games. UDFA Olamide Zaccheaus—who had a very productive college career and probably should’ve been drafted—currently leads the Falcons with 4 catches for 66 yards (16.5 average). Christian Blake, who was also with the Falcons during the 2018 preseason, is right on his heels with 8 catches for 65 yards (8.1 average). UDFA Kahlil Lewis had a quiet first game, but followed that up with a very nice second outing where he led Atlanta in receiving with 2 catches for 43 yards. He’s currently third on the team with 4 catches for 57 yards (14.3 average).

Those aren’t even the only guys that have flashed thus far. Small school prospect Shawn Bane had an impressive Hall of Fame game showing, but couldn’t do anything with his two targets against Miami. C.J. Worton has been earning more targets, but has also had his share of drops. We’ve barely gotten to see rookie Marcus Green in the preseason after he suffered a hamstring injury in the Hall of Fame game, but you’d have to think the Falcons would love to see him flash enough to earn a roster spot.

All of this points to a fierce WR competition that isn’t likely to be decided any time soon. I believe Russell Gage is pretty firmly entrenched at WR4, but the fifth and sixth spots are wide open. Veteran Justin Hardy and rookie Marcus Green should be considered the favorites, but I think there’s an opportunity for someone like Zaccheaus, Blake, or Lewis to claw their way onto the roster with solid showings throughout the three remaining preseason games.

What do you think of the Falcons’ depth at WR? Do you think Russell Gage has proven himself enough to be considered the WR4? Who would you like to see win the final two roster spots at WR?

https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2019/8/10/20706886/falcons-training-camp-2019-theres-a-fierce-competition-at-wr-russell-gage-olamide-zaccheaus

I made a post not long ago saying exactly what this thread is saying... We loaded this year.. if we don't get it done this year.. I'm not sure we ever will. I've always included the statement in that "As long as Ryan stays healthy,, But you know what.. I think now that we might could make it even if Ryan had to sit for a while,, God forbid ...  But it actually might make us run the ball more ,, and that wears down D#s.... All I can say is I made a post early after the draft that brought out  all the points this post is pointing out.. Deepest falcon team ever by at least 30%. I think we may only lose 3 or 4 games at the most...

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Larkin, Odom, Grace, and Gage all stood out in a big way to me. Hardy has always been a solid WR but Gage looks legitimately dangerous. If one of our main three WR were out, I know I'd much rather see Gage getting the snaps.

Larkin played like a man possessed during the Miami games. He had a relentless motor and was winning in a variety of ways. Another performance like that should earn him a roster spot. 

Odom didn't make as many plays as Larkin but was passing the eye test for sure. He was anchoring well against the run and generating pressure against the pass. With our Dline depth being a little suspect, I expect him to make in on the 53.

Grace is a guy I've been pulling for since he came out of Miami. Even outside of his near pick 6, I thought he has looked good in both games. 

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On 8/10/2019 at 4:42 AM, DriveHomeSafelyAtlantaWins said:

Surprised he didn't point it out, but Parker Baldwin had a bad game. Still might make the 53 of course, but he didn't look good last night.

He's actually not bad in coverage from my limited observation of him but unfortunately his most memorable play is him losing contain and getting knocked down on a goaline stretch for a TD.   That said, Ish isn't an answer either.  I know he can tackle good and play the run but man never has and probably never will be good in coverage.

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On 8/10/2019 at 9:46 PM, HASHBROWN3 said:

Props to Larken. Dude was on fkg Fire Thursday night.  I thought this article only glanced over him. He did more than what they mentioned.

Exactly. They have to keep this guy. He was incredible Thursday night.

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7 minutes ago, PokerSteve said:

Exactly. They have to keep this guy. He was incredible Thursday night.

That 79 guy has been really hustling too.

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner I believe 

 

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5 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

That 79 guy has been really hustling too.

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner I believe 

 

Yep. He's another sleeper that's a real eye-opener. lol

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