The final week of the preseason can be a tense one for a football team.
Starting players are trying to get their final fine-tuning in before the season begins. Young players and those on the bottom third of the roster are trying to make the team and coaching staffs must figure out what players they have to tell their football dreams have ended, at least momentarily.
When the Falcons face the Jaguars on Thursday night, the starters may play some, but the night will mostly belong to young players fighting for a spot on the final 53 man roster or the practice squad. In some ways it's the most compelling game of the preseason because players leave everything on the field.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith said on Monday said they have a lot to determine over the course of this week and there are some difficult choices ahead for his roster.
"It's very difficult," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys on our football team that have worked extremely hard, and they've done a lot of good things. We've got to make decisions to get down to the 53-man roster, and then come back and try to put a practice squad together for the end of this week. They're tough decisions and there's going to be a lot playing on how these guys perform in the game Thursday night."
The NFL deadline to reach the maximum of 53 players on the active list is 9 p.m. on Friday, August 31. Once players clear waivers, the Falcons can sign eight eligible players to their practice squad beginning at noon on Saturday, September 1.