Head coach Mike Smith began this year’s training camp with a message that was a little more than coach speak and he continued it throughout the duration of camp. From Day 1 he said he anticipated a highly competitive camp, with fights for roster spots more heated than any other season except his first in 2008. It looked like he was right, and when the final cuts were made over the weekend, there were some surprises and a number of young players emerged with jobs.
“I’ll say this, we let a lot of good football players, a lot of good men, go over the weekend,” Smith said Monday. “Tough decisions.”
Among the players that made the roster were five that many probably didn’t expect to be around when it was all said and done. Linebackers
“They have competed, and we said it was going to be open competition in our evaluation. They won the competition and that is why they are here on our squad. They will have an opportunity to help us win football games this year.”
Worrilow, Bartu, Jones and Schraeder joined the Falcons as undrafted free agents following this year’s draft. Vaughan entered the league as an undrafted player in 2009 and after bouncing around practice squads he landed on the active roster of the Panthers in 2010.
In total, the Falcons have 12 undrafted players on their roster and eight of those were original college free signings by the Falcons. Of the final 53, 12 players are rookies.
This is not the first year they’ve entered the season with 10 defensive backs, but the breakdown is a little different. In most seasons Smith and his staff carried five corners and four safeties, except in 2011 when they took four safeties and six corners. This year they kept five of each. One of those safeties, veteran
Schillinger is among those five safeties, joining starters
Veterans like Schillinger bring a lot of experience to special teams and those experienced players may have been a factor in some of the numbers that were kept for this year’s roster. It’s possible that special teams coach Keith Armstrong selected some of the players he wanted on his units and they found a way to make the names fit. Schillinger has no doubt that his play on special teams aided in winning a job.
“Obviously being a backup safety, I have to be a special teams guy,” he said. “I think I’ve played quite a few reps on special teams here throughout my career and I think that was probably a factor they liked and wanted to have a little bit of experience on that side.”