Falcons position battles that will be decided tonight


The Atlanta Falcons are thankfully headed into their fifth and final preseason game of 2019, however, there is still a lot to play for as the roster cut down looms.

And looking at the record, there isn’t too much to be happy about. But if you peel back the layers, the story changes just a bit. While excitement may not be the first word to come to mind, competition is.

Some players have performed as you’d expect, i.e. Matt Ryan and Keanu Neal, while others, looking at you Ty Sambraillo, have left some head scratching plays on film that make you wonder about his future.

Regardless of what’s happened there are some key battles to watch. And the most pressing one is at the kicker position.

Tavecchio versus Walsh

Let’s get this out the way, Matt Bryant ain’t coming back. As consistent as he was, the Falcons have clearly moved on and hoped Giorgio Tavecchio would pan out. But he’s left too many possible points on the field. Tavs has gone a gaudy four of eight on field goal attempts.

So in comes Blair Walsh, who is infamously known for his missed chip shot in the playoffs when he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings. And that’s who the Falcons decided to sign? Weird.

This is all shaping up too well for an Atlanta sports horror story.

Falcons go with Walsh for week one at Minnesota, have a chance to win the game with about three seconds left, Walsh comes in, shanks it terribly to the left, and the Falcons start 0-1.

According to FalconsWire, Walsh went five of nine on his attempts at Flowery Branch. So who should you be pulling for here?

Carli Lloyd? Morten Andersen? Perhaps Tavs. He’s the one guy who has actually kicked in a Falcons uniform in a game setting. He didn’t miss a kick in fill in duty last year, and helped ice the game versus the New York Giants on a 56 yard field on a Monday night.

If all else fails, let’s hope the Falcons make a move with the best interest of the team in mind. And if that means bringing back Matt Bryant or even throwing a little more money at the problem, do it.

Duke Riley versus Jermaine Grace versus Bruce Carter

The good news here, is that both players have had some impressive outings this off-season. Jermaine Grace has been tied for the team high in tackles in two games. And last time out, Duke Riley led the team in tackles.

It would be a surprise is only one of them made the roster. Both provide needed depth and could contribute on special teams, which Duke Riley has done over the past few seasons. The odd man out here seems to be Bruce Carter as the Falcons will go younger.

This is more of a battle for who gets that first call in case a member of the linebacking crew goes down.

Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokon are as close to locks as a professional player could be. But the way Grace has performed this preseason, he’ll make coaches give him a strong consideration to back up one of the starters.

Matt Gono versus John Wetzel

This battle will be decided this evening as well. Gono was very good in his preseason start last week against the Redskins and that may have tilted the battle in his direction, however, the Falcons cannot overlook the fact that Wetzel has started actual NFL games at all four non-center spots during his NFL career.

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Matt Gono has practiced at all four spots as coaches try to make him more versatile, but there is something to be said about practice and actually playing them in a game. The Falcons may keep Gono, but expect big John Wetzel to put up a fight tonight, like he has during camp.