There is going to be a new look to the roster of the 2021 Atlanta Falcons under head coach Arthur Smith. With the wide zone rushing scheme leading the offense and a multiple-front defense, there will be more of a focus on the physical aspect of football. The 2021 Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster projection is based on what Falcons fans know of Arthur Smith’s Tennessee Titans teams and the current state of the Falcons themselves.
Smith’s approach to this off-season is that Atlanta’s brass is demanding accountability from all of their players. Combining this with the aggressiveness of the front office to make moves (such as the Julio Jones trade), this 2021 season may prove the start of something exciting for Falcons fans. Before optimism runs rampant, however, it is important to project the Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster of who will set the foundation for Atlanta’s rebuilding process.
Matt Ryan, A.J. McCarron
Arthur Smith outlined one of the reasons he took the job in Atlanta as the chance to work with veteran passer Matt Ryan. He is on record saying Ryan “wants to be coached” and how he, as his coach, is “going to push him.” A.J. McCarron was signed in free agency to a one-year deal and is slated to back up Matt Ryan.
Keith Smith should enjoy this new offense with HC Arthur Smith. Falcons fans might recall Patrick DiMarco, who served as the lead blocker for Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman en route to a Super Bowl appearance. With Keith Smith operating as the lone fullback on the Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster, fans can expect similar production from the position.
Running Backs (4)
Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison, Cordarelle Patterson, Javian Hawkins
Mike Davis joins the Falcons as the frontrunner for the feature backfield role in Arthur Smith’s offense. Qadree Ollison’s development into a potential third-down back was one of the few bright spots from an otherwise abysmal running game in 2020.
Cordarelle Patterson has cemented himself throughout the league as a weapon deployable anywhere in the offense. Javian Hawkins was an undrafted free-agent pickup from the University of Louisville. He was a dynamic option for the Cardinals who exhibited big-play ability that could prove too much for Arthur Smith to ignore.
Tight Ends (4)
Hayden Hurst, Kyle Pitts, Lee Smith, Jaeden Graham
Arthur Smith coached tight ends in Tennessee from 2013 to 2018 before becoming offensive coordinator. As such, the 2021 Atlanta Falcons may provide a haven for tight ends intent on showing off their skills. Hayden Hurst returns to the team after the Falcons declined his fifth-year option. Hurst, as many tight ends have, should enjoy the way Smith uses him in this offense. Another chess piece for Smith is fourth-overall pick Kyle Pitts from the University of Florida. Pitts is an athletic marvel who stands to be a matchup nightmare for defenses across the league.
Atlanta traded a seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for Lee Smith early on in free agency. Smith is known for his propensity to serve as a sixth offensive lineman as he nears the end of his career. Jaeden Graham stands to make the Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster as he continues to fill a role both on special teams and as a backup tight end.
Wide Receivers (6)
Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake, Tajae Sharp, Frank Darby
With Julio Jones gone, Calvin Ridley will have to earn his keep as the number one receiver in this talented, but young wide receiver room. Ridley is going to demand several double-teams as he did last year when Julio was injured.
Gage and Zaccheaus both return with a responsibility to step up to number two and number three receiver statuses respectively. Christian Blake returns to the active roster ready to prove he deserves a spot on the Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster as a slot receiver. Tajae Sharp comes in as a disciple of two years in Arthur Smith’s system. He can help speed up the acclimation process for the rest of the receivers in the room.
Rookie receiver Frank Darby comes in as a sixth-round draft pick in the 2021 draft, hailing from Arizona State University. He was known as A.S.U.’s big-play threat and should play a similar role for the Falcons in 2021.
Offensive Tackles (3)
Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono
Matthews and McGary are the two starting tackles, returning to the Falcons ready to stave off edge rushers throughout the league. With Matthews on the blind side and McGary manning the right, there is a chance for continuity on the offensive line. Gono comes in as a backup but is currently inactive due to an undisclosed non-season-ending injury.
Offensive Guards (3)
Chris Lindstrom, Jalen Mayfield, Josh Andrews
Chris Lindstrom is a virtual lock at right guard. Rookie Jalen Mayfield and seven-year veteran Josh Andrews will compete to fill the left guard position. Smith may look to develop Mayfield through in-game experience, which would require Mayfield to win the starting job. Andrews would then provide the team a versatile and experienced backup who can play both guard positions.
Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman
Second-year center Matt Hennessy is the odds-on favorite to start even though the Falcons spent a fourth-round pick on rookie Drew Dalman out of Stanford. After spending a year behind former All-Pro Alex Mack, Hennessy now can mentor Dalman on that which Mack mentored him.
Interior Defensive Lineman (3)
Grady Jarrett, Tyeler Davison, Marlon Davidson
Grady Jarrett is a Pro-Bowl caliber defensive tackle who earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 80.0 or higher in the last four seasons. Expect defensive coordinator Dean Pees to start with Jarrett and build outward as he outlines his strategy for the defense. Year-in, year-out, Tyeler Davison proves he is a run-stuffing specialist who deserves the money from his restructured extension.
Marlon Davidson is last year’s second-round pick who had a hard time staying on the field due to injury. In his rookie year, he showed flashes of the talent that made him such a high draft pick. Arthur Smith surely thinks so, believing Davidson and center Matt Hennessy deserve a “clean slate” from their COVID-laden rookie years.
Edge Rushers (5)
Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard, Barkevious Mingo, Jacob Tutioti-Mariner, Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Dante Fowler enters 2021 with the final year of his contract voided to clear cap space for next year. This is another cap-saving tactic typifying general manager Terry Fontenot’s aggressive approach to rebuilding the Atlanta Falcons. This also makes it possible for Atlanta to get burned if Fowler bounces back from his abysmal 2020 season.
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner was one of the pleasant surprises from the 2020 season as he carved out a role in Atlanta’s defensive lineman rotation. Jonathan Bullard and former first-round pick Barkevious Mingo are new faces along the edge for Atlanta. Both can play either with their hands in the dirt or standing up. This bodes well for Pees and his multiple-front scheme.
Adetokunbo Ogundeji was Atlanta’s fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft out of Notre Dame. Ogundeji boasts a frame of 6’4”, 260 pounds, and improved every year he played for Notre Dame. Dean Pees should be able to mold Ogundeji to thrive in his malleable defensive scheme.=
Defensive Linemen (2)
John Cominsky, Ta’Quon Graham
John Cominsky’s athleticism should prove a tremendous asset to Pees, who likes to give offenses different looks along the defensive front. Cominsky was noted for his agility and ability to get around less-athletic offensive linemen. Pees uses stunts and twists to cause turmoil, meaning Cominsky has a chance to truly thrive in this environment. Rookie Ta’Quon Graham was picked in the fifth round by the Falcons with the distinction of defensive tackle. However, he has experience playing along both the interior and exterior of the offensive line at Texas and Pees would be remiss not to take advantage of this fact.
Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokun, Mykal Walker, Brandon Copeland, Erroll Thompson
Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun headline a stacked and athletic linebacker group. Jones and Oluokun’s athleticism alone are enough to keep offenses on edge.
On top of these two, however, the Falcons added 2021 P.F.F. All-Rookie selection Mykal Walker and veteran Brandon Copeland to the mix.
U.D.F.A. Erroll Thompson should have a chance to soak up the defense from the sidelines. He brings a huge presence and natural leadership potential to the position. It seems linebacker will serve as the premier position for the 2021 Atlanta Falcons.
A.J. Terrell, Kendall Sheffield, Fabian Moreau, Isaiah Oliver, Darren Hall, Avery Williams
A.J. Terrell returns after a better-than-expected rookie year and has cemented himself as the number one corner in the defense. Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver return and hope to benefit from a simplistic approach to the back-end under Dean Pees’s coaching. Fabian Moreau signed a one-year deal with the Falcons after operating as a staple in the vaunted Washington Football Team defense in 2020.
Darren Hall was Atlanta’s fourth-round pick this year and is a versatile piece for Pees to deploy. Boasting the ability and versatility to play both cornerback and safety, Hall should carve out a solid role in the secondary sooner than later. Avery Williams is expected to be more of a return-man, but his speed suggests it should surprise nobody if he takes snaps at cornerback.
Erik Harris, Jaylinn Hawkins, Duron Harmon, Richie Grant
Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and Ricardo Allen all left the team this off-season. This unfortunately left a major hole at the safety position. To alleviate this issue, the Falcons drafted University of Central Florida product Richie Grant in the second round. The team also brought in veterans Erik Harris and Duron Harmon.
Grant showed his versatility to play both free and strong safety throughout college. This versatility seems like a running trend for Dean Pees, as all four players are interchangeable between the scheme’s two safety roles. Harris and Harmon will likely wind up starting. However, Richie Grant and second-year veteran Jaylinn Hawkins will receive adequate time in the rotation as well.
Younghoe Koo, Sterling Hofrichter, Josh Harris
Everyone’s favorite kicker is back and ready for another solid outing as Younghoe Koo re-signed after his stellar Pro-Bowl season. Atlanta brass deemed it necessary to bring in camp competition for Sterling Hofrichter, as he was abysmal in 2020. Hofrichter should ultimately still win the job, but his production must improve if he wishes to stay with Atlanta. The always reliable Josh Harris returns for another year as the team’s longsnapper.
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