The Atlanta Falcons had one of the more complete rosters from top to bottom last season. They looked to compete for a playoff spot from the start but unfortunately, the injury bug hit the team from the beginning.

Within the first few weeks, the team lost Devonta Freeman, Keanu Neal, and Deion Jones for example to injury. While they came back, there were unable to stay healthy once again. The team finished 7-9 and on top of the injuries, the offensive line struggled to give protection to Matt Ryan and the running back committee.

The two main offseason musts for the Falcons was the offensive line and re-signing Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett. The team did just that, drafting Chris Lindstrom with the 14th overall selection and trading back into the first round to draft Kaleb McGary. The also gave the franchise tag to Jarrett and eventually signed a four-year, $68 million contract. Here is the breakdown of all the positions heading into the regular season, along with the projected starters and backups.

Quarterbacks

Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
  • Starter: Matt Ryan
  • Backup: Matt Schaub
  • Preseason Cut: Kurt Benkert

The 2016 league MVP will be under center for the Falcons once again as he heads into his 12th season. He has had a couple down years since the MVP year with Kyle Shanahan, but Shanahan is long gone. New Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter will look to help bounce back Ryan. Still a top QB in the league and never missed a game since his sophomore season.

Schaub, 38, recently signed an extension and will likely hold his backup role once again. Benkert will get a lot of action in the preseason but will likely spend 2019 on the practice squad once again and eventually be the future backup to Ryan when Schaub retires.

Running Backs

Credit: Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports
  • Starter: Devonta Freeman
  • Backups: Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner, Ricky Ortiz
  • Preseason Cuts: Tony Brooks-Jones, Brian Hill

When healthy, Freeman is a top back in the league. 2018 was a lost season for Freeman, playing in only two games with a groin and foot injury. He’ll look to bounce back and lead the backfield.

Smith will look to be the main backup to Freeman and take over the role of Tevin Coleman as a pass-catcher while the rookie Ollison will fill in spot duty and could take some carries away from Smith if he impresses in the preseason. Barner will get some looks on offense but will likely get more action on the field as a kick returner. Ortiz will be the fullback when the Falcons use one in certain formations.

Hill and Brooks-Jones look to be on the outs for the regular season but if one of them impresses, they could be practice squad candidates.

Wide Receivers

Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  • Starters: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley
  • Backups: Justin Hardy, Russell Gage, Marcus Green
  • Preseason Cuts: Shawn Bane, Christian Blake, Devin Gray, Kahlil Lewis, CJ Worton, Olamide Zaccheaus

Jones is arguably one of if not the best WR in the NFL. Coming off a 1,677 yard, eight TD season, he’ll look to be Ryan’s top target once again. Sanu is a solid number two while Ridley will get plenty of looks in the offense after a successful rookie season.

Hardy re-signed with the team this past season and will likely be the top backup in the receiving core. Gage and rookie Green will compete for targets as the 5th and 6th WR.

Bane, Blake, Gray, Lewis, Worton, and Zaccheaus will get plenty of looks in the preseason and we could see one or two of those guys sign with the practice squad.

Tight Ends

Credit: Atlanta Falcons Website
  • Starter: Austin Hooper
  • Backups: Luke Stocker, Eric Saubert
  • Preseason Cuts: Jaeden Graham, Alex Gray, Logan Paulsen

Hooper was a Pro Bowl selection in 2018 and is one of the best tight ends fans outside of Atlanta might not know about. He’ll look to continue his success and a security option for Ryan, especially in the end zone.

Stocker and Saubert provide depth and also bring Speical Team skills for Atlanta. Stocker could also be a blocker for Freeman is they want to move him to fullback.

If Atlanta decided to keep four TE’s, Paulsen would be the top option but that depends on how many RB’s and WR’s they keep.

Offensive Line

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • Starters: Jake Matthews, James Carpenter, Alex Mack, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary
  • Backups: Wes Schweitzer, Ty Sambrailo, Jamon Brown
  • Preseason Cuts: Chandler Miller, Sean Harlow, Adam Gettis, John Wetzel, Dieugot Joseph, Matt Gono, Jaelin Robinson

Atlanta drafted both Lindstrom and McGary in the first round in this past draft so they are the clear starters on the right side of the re-tooled offensive line. Carpenter was brought in via free agency and looks to be the clear starter at the left guard spot. Matthews and Mack are one of the top players at their position (left tackle, center respectively).

Schweitzer, Sambrailo, and Brown are veterans that will likely secure the backup spots heading into the regular season. Out of all the cuts, Harlow seems to be the leader of the pack if the team decides to hold onto a 9th lineman.

Defensive Line

Credit: Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports
  • Starters: Vic Beasley Jr., Deadrin Senat, Grady Jarrett, Takkarist McKinley
  • Backups: Adrian Clayborn, Allen Bailey, Jack Crawford, Chris Odom, Tyeler Davidson
  • Preseason Cuts: John Cominsky, Austin Larkin, Durant Miles, Ra’Shede Hageman, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Justin Zimmer

Jarrett re-signing with the Falcons was huge as he is one the best interior pass rushers in the league. Beasley Jr. and McKinley showed that they can play at a high level but both need to show that they can play at a consistent level.

Clayborn, Bailey, and Crawford are veterans that will get on the field as rotational players while Odom and Davidson might get on the field but could be used in Special Teams.

Linebackers

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • Starters: Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley
  • Backups: Bruce Carter, Foyesade Oluokun, Jermaine Grace
  • Preseason Cuts: Stephone Anthony, Yurik Bethune, Tre’ Crawford, Del’Shawn Phillips

Jones I believe is an absolute star but injuries hurt his sophomore campaign. Look for him to bounce back nicely as he has the speed to cover tight ends while stopping the run.

Campbell and Riley look to be the other staters while Carter, Oluokun, and Grace will compete for backup/Special Team roles.

Cornerbacks

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  • Starters: Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver
  • Backups: Kendall Sheffield, Bildi Wreh-Wilson, Taveze Calhoun, Jordan Miller
  • Preseason Cuts: Parker Baldwin, Jayson Stanley, Richard Causey

Trufant is the leading man at the cornerback slots while Oliver seems to be the leader for the second spot. Sheffield and Wreh-Wilson will compete with Oliver for the starting spot but could get looks at the nickel spot.

Calhoun and Miller should make the team, mainly to contribute on Special Teams. Baldwin, Stanley, and Causey may end up being practice squad candidates if they impress in the preseason.

Safeties

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • Starters: Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen
  • Backups: Damontae Kazee, Ryan Neal, Kemal Ishmael
  • Preseason Cuts: Chris Cooper, Sharrod Thompson

Neal is another star in the Falcons defense that had a lost season last year with injuries. He’ll bounce back and form one of the best safety duos with Allen starting next to him.

J.J. Wilcox looked to be a backup but is out for the season with a torn ACL. That leaves Kazee as the top backup that could start for another of other teams. Neal and especially Ishmael will make the team as Special Teams contributors.

Specialists

Credit: USA Today Sports
  • Kicker: Giorgio Tavecchio
  • Punter: Matt Posher
  • Long Snapper: Josh Harris
  • Preseason Cuts: Kyle Vasey

Longtime kicker Matt Bryant is gone, leaving Tavecchio as the kicker for the 2019 season. Posher is Pro Bowl-caliber punter with Harris is a longtime veteran. Overall, the specialist seems to be pretty much locked.

For Atlanta’s 2019 season, health is a big concern. Guys like Freeman, Jones, and Neal are all healthy and the offensive line looks to be improved. On top of that, Jones is a top WR in the league and Ridley will look to have an improved sophomore season. Of course, you have to look at Ryan leading the offense once again. If Beasley Jr. and McKinley can have a bounce-back, the team will no doubt compete for a playoff spot come December.

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