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Notes, observations from final practice before initial 53-man roster cut down

The Falcons have to drop the roster down from 80 to 53 before 4 p.m. on Tuesday. What did the final practice before that happens look like? 

If there's one word Arthur Smith wants you to get into your head before the initial 53-man roster is announced on Tuesday it's fluidity. If Smith could tack a sign onto the 53-man roster that says, "This is not set!" he probably would.

Because of where the organization is right now, the bottom of this roster is going to churn frequently. Terry Fontenot said as much during free agency and the pre-Draft process. Kyle Smith said so when training camp began. Smith echoed that same sentiment after Saturday's game, and again after practice on Monday.


"It's going to be very fluid," Smith said of the 53-man roster over the next few days. "What you may see (Tuesday), may look different Wednesday, may look different Thursday or Friday."

Essentially? Don't get too comfortable, because chances are transactions are going to hit the wire over and over again once the initial 53-man roster is announced.

There's also a chance the Falcons find value in other cuts made across the league. Smith said the front office is constantly looking at cuts made by the other teams on cut-down days. Already, Smith said, if there's a player the front office is serious about potentially bringing in, he's already turning on their tape, and has been throughout the preseason's entirety.

"I want to take a peek at them to know who - potentially - we may bring in here," Smith said. "Absolutely."

So, yeah. When the Falcons' 53-man roster is set on Tuesday at 4 p.m., make sure you're putting the word "initial" in front of it. That cannot be stressed enough.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Notes, observations from practice

Roll call: The notable absences of Monday's 30-minute viewing period included WR Drake London, OT Kaleb McGary, G Jalen Mayfield, DL Marlon Davidson, CB Darren Hall, RB Cordarrelle Patterson and ILB Dorian Etheridge (who had to be carted off the field during Saturday's game with the Jaguars). London and Davidson's absences because of injuries continue to be noteworthy.

Smith said after practice McGary was sick, but it's nothing serious. Hall is dealing with a personal matter and should be back next week. Patterson was on a recovery/rest day, and will ramp back up for Week 1. Mayfield - who missed Friday's joint practice because of sickness - was sick again on Monday. However, Smith did add that Mayfield is continuing to work through a lower back issue that has plagued him all camp. With the 53-man cut down quickly approaching, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Mayfield is stashed on IR after the initial release to make room for Justin Shaffer on the active roster. Something to consider since this back issue has lingered for Mayfield.

As for London, Smith said he wouldn't make a prediction about when the rookie receiver would return, but he ultimately "feels good about where he's at."

Offensive line shake up: With McGary and Mayfield not participating on Monday, Germain Ifedi slotted into the first-team right tackle role in McGary's place. Shaffer ran in Mayfield's spot as the second-team left guard.

As for center, it was Drew Dalman's day to work with the ones and Marcus Mariota. I would caution against reading too much into that note, though. Even with the preseason having come to a close, Smith confirmed it was just Dalman's day to run with the first team. Smith continued by saying he does not want to keep this competition with Dalman and Matt Hennessy going through the season's start. He won't rotate them during the season. When asked about the timeline of said decision, Smith said that they're close to reaching one. However, the battle still rages on.

"I want to step back because the competition has been so competitive," Smith said. "I've told both the guys that they've handled it really well. That's not an easy thing to do... I want to take a step back and go back through everything so we can take emotion out of it and make a good, objective decision."

Atlanta Falcons center Matt Hennessy #61 talks with offensive lineman Drew Dalman #67 during field work drills in Phase II of the Atlanta Falcons offseason program on May 18, 2021.

Feleipe Franks, Tight End: Franks was back to working with the tight ends during the 30-minute viewing period on Monday. Though he's played primarily quarterback during the preseason games, he's worked mostly at tight end at practice. That trend seemed to continue, at least early in Monday's practice. What he did thereafter, though, is up for debate.

Nickel rotation continues to take shape: What once started as a project has now felt more concrete as Dee Alford continues to work as the first-team nickel. Mike Ford (who took majority of the first team nickel reps early in camp) again ran with the second team at outside corner with Hall absent. This is something the Falcons have been working over the course of the last two weeks. It's something to monitor, too, as the first week of the regular season approaches. If it plays out that Alford starts at nickel Week 1, that's a training camp Cinderella story if there ever was one.

Meanwhile, Isaiah Oliver continued to work sparingly with the second team in rotation at nickel. After the game on Saturday (which was the first time we've seen Oliver play significant live reps since his season-ending injury last year), he said he wasn't at 100 percent yet, but was really close. Oliver has been wearing a knee brace since returning to the field this spring, but he said on Saturday that he's officially retiring it. He's working back, but may still have another week - or two - before really reaching full 100 percent.

"He's out of his brace and you can tell he's moving more fluid," A.J. Terrell said about Oliver. "... He's a team player. Just one of those guys you can always tip your hat to."

Deion Jones update: Jones was - again - out at practice on Monday after being activated off the PUP list last week. Jones played a quarter and a half on Saturday against Jacksonville, working alongside Nick Kwiatkoski who has reportedly been working through an injury this camp. During Monday's viewing period, Jones was again working with the reserve groups, with Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker, Troy Andersen and Nate Landman working with the ones and twos at inside linebacker. Jones was also on the field during the first special teams portion of practice.


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