As promised, the dueling 53-man roster projections are back!
If you've been following along with Scott and I (at all) over the course of the last year, we did a dueling roster projection before the 53-man cut down date last year. We also wrote another 15 days ago as a primer for, well, this week. With the official cut down coming on Tuesday, though, we're bringing it back.
As a refresher, here's how the format goes: Scott makes his picks, and I - Tori - give a rebuttal. We'll switch roles for the defensive picks. Sometimes things get pretty spicy, even though I refuse to outright be mean to Scott about his picks.
In all honesty, there's not much to disagree with. We learned a lot throughout this preseason. But more so, we already know this 53-man roster isn't set in stone once cuts are made. As Arthur Smith said last week: The hay is never in the barn. So, even though these are our official picks, come the end of this week? A lot could look different.
Scott's picks: Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder
Tori's rebuttal: GASP! No Feleipe Franks?! In the words of Kelly Kapoor: Number one: How dare you?
Nah, I'm kidding. Even though we've seen Franks at quarterback more than we've seen him at tight end throughout the three preseason games, I am not yet ready to give up on Feleipe Franks, Tight End. But more to the point of Mariota and Ridder: We now know a bit more about what this offense looks like with these guys at the wheel. I'll give you one word: Mobility. The pocket isn't as rigid as it once was in Atlanta. Because of Mariota (and Ridder, too) we've seen it become almost fluid, which in turn adds another layer to the offense. It's a layer I'm intrigued to see continue to take shape during the regular season.
Running backs/Fullback (5)
Scott's picks: Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, Tyler Allgeier, Keith Smith, Avery Williams
Tori's rebuttal: Man, it hurts to not see Qadree Ollison's name on this list, but I get it.
The guy has been everything you've needed him to be throughout the preseason. He, Allgeier and Caleb Huntley have been your primary workhorses throughout the preseason as you know you can't send Patterson or Williams out there too much before the actual season begins. Still, though, sometimes everything isn't enough.
Perhaps, though, Ollison and Huntley showed enough where if they do get cut, they land somewhere that needs them. And look, let's be honest: Just because Scott and I don't have Ollison on this initial 53-man roster does not mean we don't see him in a Falcons uniform in the 2022 season. I've been covering this team since Ollison got here. Somehow, some way, Ollison finds his way back on the 53-man. Just because we feel we don't have the numbers to add him now doesn't mean we won't in the future.
Wide receiver (6)
Scott's picks: Drake London, Bryan Edwards, Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge, Damiere Byrd, Jared Bernhardt
Note from Scott: Tori gave me an extra spot when she made the defensive picks, so I could sneak Bernhardt on the roster.
Tori's rebuttal: Oh DANG! No Frank Darby? It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Here's the thing, though: I don't entirely disagree, because I get it. Bernhardt is an Arthur Smith guy if I've ever seen one. Smith loves his projects, and Bernhardt is a project that really did some impressive things during the preseason. It warrants him a spot on the Falcons practice squad at the very least.
Has he done more than Darby, though? I think that's the question. Both play special teams but I think Darby has a leg up there. But Bernhardt has flashed more as a receiver. Who do the Falcons go with on Tuesday? It could be a toss up, and if I'm being honest, I'm fine with either. But I do love novelty... and that's Bernhardt.
Tight ends (4)
Scott's picks: Kyle Pitts, Anthony Firkser, Parker Hesse, Feleipe Franks
Tori's rebuttal: Ah, so there's Feleipe Franks. We found him. I knew he'd make an appearance somewhere. I am sure many are curious, though, why we continue to harp on Franks as a tight end. Look, I swear it wasn't a mirage what he did during camp at the position. No, we didn't get to see it much in any of the preseason games, but that's probably by design. And remember when I said Bernhardt is an Arthur Smith guy? OK well, Franks is the OG Arthur Smith guy in Atlanta. It has always felt like he's making this 53-man roster.
But what about John FitzPatrick? You may be asking. My prediction there is I think we will see FitzPatrick land on injured reserve at some point. He didn't participate in either of the joint practices with the Jaguars this last week, and - along with Drake London - he did not dress for Saturday's game. So, it's an injury that kept him off the field this past week, so could it be a situation that lands him on IR? Perhaps. I'm not ruling it out.
Offensive linemen (9)
Scott's picks: Jake Matthews, Elijah Wilkinson, Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Germain Ifedi, Colby Gossett, Jalen Mayfield
Tori's rebuttal: I really have no rebuttal to these selections if I'm being honest. Outside of the Hennessy/Dalman competition at center (which doesn't have anything to do with who does or does not make the 53-man at this point), this group has felt fairly set for the last few weeks. Wilkinson has established himself as the starting left guard, and McGary has held firm at right tackle since the very first day of camp. This group is almost set, and we should have a conclusion to the center battle soon enough.
The Falcons have arrived at Mercedes-Benz Stadium ahead of a Saturday afternoon match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Preseason Game 3.