The Atlanta Falcons got crushed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in their final 2023 preseason game. Atlanta lost the game that was started by the Steelers starting units against the backups and absolutely looked like it. There were some notable performances and some winners that showed they belonged on the roster. There were also some notorious performances and some losers that showed they belong on the street playing for another team.
Winner: S DeMarcco Hellams
If you've been around the last two weeks, this name being listed here shouldn't be surprising. But even against the ones for the Steelers, Hellams was making his impact felt. He showed out on special teams with some crucial tackles and even looked good on defense against the ones. Hellams has earned the No. 4 safety role in 2023. It would be shocking to see him be cut on cut-down day. He has made an impact all preseason and is showing why he was selected by the Falcons in the draft. Hellams is the most impactful preseason rookie since Grady Jarrett in 2015.
Loser: CB Breon Borders
The Falcons were playing their backups against the Steelers ones. Even still, Breon Borders was attacked relentlessly on the first three drives of the game and looked atrocious. He misplayed both runs and passes and allowed two massive catches. He showed a lack of athleticism that he absolutely needs to have to be successful at the NFL level. This was punctuated by a defensive pass interference on a play where he was in decent position, but still committed defensive pass interference. He could be lucky to end up on the practice squad.
Winner: DL Joe Gaziano
Joe Gaziano is one of the more cerebral players on the field for the Falcons. He had some trouble with the ones by getting doubled often, but he showed that he is worthy of a roster spot. Gaziano has shown that he can make plays when he's needed to with a couple of tackles for loss. The Falcons might have their seventh defensive lineman with Gaziano here. Or maybe even their sixth if they decide to cut Timmy Horne for him.
Loser: CB Natrone Brooks
Natrone Brooks had arguably the roughest night of any cornerback for the Falcons. He was consistently getting beat, but also got called fora holding call. This doesn't even include when he got Moss'd by George Pickens. It doesn't even include a play where he just got beat by Gunner Oslewski and committed a defensive pass interference. He was having a solid preseason before this, but it's looking like Brooks should head to a different roster in 2023.
Winner: DL Demone Harris
While Demone Harris is on the field, the Falcons have someone who will intelligently play his gap, shoot through double teams and relentlessly pursue a sack. Is he as naturally talented as any of the guys on the main roster right now? No. But he can easily be a guy who is on the practice squad and adds to the defensive line depth that is needed for a long season. Harris should see a job offer from the Falcons for the regular season, even if it's just on a practice squad. His sack and tackle for loss for Atlanta in this game only adds to this cause.
Loser: OT Tyler Vrabel
Sure, Vrabel was going against multi-time defensive player of the year candidate T.J. Watt, but he looked atrocious. He was all out of sorts with no concept of any technique. The Falcons need to add a true swing tackle to this roster. Atlanta has some good players at tackle, but none of them are the reserves. A move like 2022 where they picked up Chuma Edoga off waivers is the best thing they could possibly do. Mike Vrabel's kid isn't worth a spot on the practice squad.
Winner: LB Mike Jones, Jr.
While he did have some struggles in the running game at times, the Falcons linebacker got a sack on a clutch third down to end the second quarter. Out of all the linebackers who are backing up the trio of Kaden Elliss, Troy Andersen, and Nate Landman, the Falcons might have a front runner with Mike Jones. This could be another situation, though where Jones gets cut early and comes back on the practice squad the way Landman did for a year. It could be a situation where the Falcons pick up someone off waivers to play for a year in Atlanta.
Loser: RB Carlos Washington, Jr.
Even though his preseason has been roughly pedestrian, the Falcons could have potentially had a steal with Washington if he had a good game in this one. However, he was not very good. His vision is lacking and when someone is a middling athlete like Washington is, it's tough to justify having him on the roster with a lack of athleticism. The Falcons were already likely to cut him, but adding a fumble to his stat line against the Steelers probably seals his fate.
Winner: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
The Falcons were hoping for someone in their wide receiver group to earn a roster spot through their play in the preseason. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is a former second-round pick from the Eagles and really ran great routes all through the preseason. His extremely acrobatic catch on the sideline as well as a catch on a third down on a ball thrown behind him should keep him on the roster come cut down day. This could be a redemption for Arcega-Whiteside while also giving the Falcons depth for their possession-type wide receivers like Mack Hollins and Drake London.
Loser: OT Jalen Mayfield
Jalen Mayfield has regressed as a tackle in the last two games. He's looked terrible all preseason with his technique, and despite good play against the Dolphins, he has shown that he has no business on an NFL roster in 2023 with modern offenses. Mayfield may have been a third round pick, but he's not a third round tackle. He might be a guy the Falcons put on the practice squad to teach him some more, but unless he learns to play right or left guard, he's not long for the NFL anymore.
Winner: QB Logan Woodside
The push for the Falcons to get a third quarterback on the roster has been perpetuated by Logan Woodside. He's not just fighting for a job; he's fighting to change how the Falcons have constructed their roster since 2009 by having a third quarterback on it. He might have succeeded with his play during the offseason. Woodside has played like a true third quarterback that understands the offense, makes a solid throw and doesn't turn the ball over. There's not much more Arthur Smith can ask of him. He'll end up on the roster in 2023.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.