ATLANTA -- I feel like I have ran the depth narrative into the ground this week. First it was how to account for Isaiah Oliver's absence. Then, it was how to fill in for Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. I've already written out the options the Falcons have to fill these holes on offense and defense, but I wanted to take a broader look at the Falcons depth.
It was a major topic of conversation throughout the offseason. Compared to other teams in the league, the Falcons had one of the smallest groups of contract players when free agency opened up in March. Acquiring depth through free agency and the draft was always a top priority for this front office this offseason.
Now, that acquired depth will be tested.
There is a chance - albeit a small one - that you see every draftee on the active roster on Sunday. Kyle Pitts and Jalen Mayfield will continue to be starters. Drew Dalman will be a primary backup across the offensive line, as will Ade Ogundeji in pass rush. Frank Darby, Richie Grant, Ta'Quon Graham and potentially Darren Hall could see more rotational opportunities. Avery Williams' game day status is currently unknown, though, as he works through a hamstring injury. Arthur Smith said on Friday that a decision will be made about Williams (hamstring) and Erik Harris (calf) on Saturday as both are considered doubtful on the most recent injury report.
If neither get the green light, the Falcons have to do quite a bit of shuffling in the secondary to account for the potential holes Williams and Harris leave.
As for other depth pieces that are not a part of this rookie class, this is an opportunity for Olamide Zaccheaus, Tajae Sharpe and Christian Blake to step into Ridley and Gage's vacated roles.
Questioning depth isn't a new issue for Atlanta. The Falcons even starting Mayfield at left guard in the first place was a contingency plan enacted when Josh Andrews landed on IR. The difference now is the scale to which this Falcons team will have to rely on it's depth.
One of Smith's go-to phrases to use when it comes to the notion of building in contingency plans to account for depth is that "it's life in the NFL."
"You always have contingency plans because things come up, and you have to be ready to go, and you can't waste energy," Smith said. "... We have a lot of faith in our guys and our guys have had a good week of preparation."
Smith said the Falcons feel as though they "have good depth," and while the coaching staff does "feel confident" in their abilities, it's now time to prove that by stepping up against the Jets on Sunday. And this game does beg the question: How much loss is too much loss when it comes to starters being out? Are the Falcons to that point with key members like Ridley, Gage, Oliver and even potentially Harris out? We'll be able to evaluate that more extensively after Sunday.
What the Falcons have to lean on now, though, is their preparation. It's something Smith finished his London press conference with, saying blatantly that if the Falcons are anything, they're prepped.
"We want to put on a good show," Smith said. "And that's what you'll see: You'll see a team that's coming in here prepared."
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Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.