As training camp wrapped up for the Falcons on Sunday, and the pivotal third preseason game approaches, the team will prepare its final evaluations before it makes its roster cut from 90 to 75 on August 27.
Preseason performances are usually taken with a grain of salt, but in this process they tend to either make or break the careers for young players looking for a roster spot. Countless careers have been over before they ever began due to one blown coverage, missed block, fumble, dropped pass, or interception in a preseason game.
Every play will be critical for some of these young Falcons come Saturday night.
The former Duke standout received plenty of rave reviews throughout the draft process this Spring. However, while he has been solid, he hasn’t played well enough to supplant Dominique Davis as the backup quarterback. Atlanta will only carry two quarterbacks on its active roster, so winning the backup job will be the only way for Renfree to make the 53-man roster.
Prediction: Renfree will play well to end the preseason, but not well enough to beat out Davis. He will beat out Seth Doege for a spot on the practice squad.
The hard-hitting safety from Central Florida immediately turned heads in training camp with his impressive tackling. Pro Bowlers William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have the two starting safety spots locked up, so Ishmael is fighting for a backup spot. His primary competition is with second-year man Charles Mitchell, fellow rookie Zeke Motta and fourth-year safety Shann Schillinger. When vying for a back-up spot the best thing you can do is make a name for yourself on special teams, and a tackling-machine like Ishmael should do just that.
Prediction: Ishmael edges out the other safety competition due to his tackling ability and upside.
Franks saw time on the field last season at punt returner and cornerback. His performance left much to be desired in both respects, and the Falcons elected to bring in some young talent via the draft. Rookie Robert Alford figures to be the punt returner this season and the combination of Alford, fellow rookie Desmond Trufant, nickelback Robert McClain and veteran Asante Samuel figure to leave Franks out of the equation at corner. The Falcons will more than likely keep five cornerbacks for the 53-man roster, which would leave Franks battling it out with Peyton Thompson and Terrence Johnson for the final spot.
Prediction: Franks will make the roster, but will have to make an impact as a gunner or in kickoff coverage.
The former Seminole speedster has shown his ability to catch the ball out the backfield so far in preseason, but hasn’t done too much on the ground. Meanwhile, third-year back Josh Vaughan has been quite impressive on his carries thus far in the preseason. However, the combination of Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jason Snelling will more than likely keep a fourth back from getting many touches anyway. What will set Smith apart from Vaughan is the fact that Smith is an excellent special teams player. (Sensing a theme here?)
Prediction: Smith will make the roster due to his special team skills.
The best training camp story in all of the NFL this year has been Brian Banks, who was exonerated last year after serving five years in prison following false rape accusations from a female classmate. Banks was committed to USC, but was never able to play a down for the Trojans due to his false imprisonment. However, after 10 years away from football he appears to be a long-shot to make the final roster.