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The Falcoholic Mailbag, Preseason Week 3 Edition

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The Falcons questions you wanted answered, officially answered.

The mailbag is back! This week, we don't have a ton of questions about roster cuts, but we do have questions about some of the most popular position battles and young players seeking to make names for themselves. As always, I have your answers.

Don't forget you can submit mailbag questions in the comments for next week's edition, or save your bullets for next Tuesday's cuts.

I think Smith has a real shot at a roster spot, but I'm not willing to go much further than that. The Falcons will be playing Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi, Stansly Maponga and potentially Joplo Bartu outside, where Smith makes his living. He could certainly leapfrog one or two of those guys, and the talent and drive are real, but he'll likely need an injury to give him significant playing time in 2014. If he does stick, though, look for a larger role in 2015 and beyond.

Next up, an epic four part question from grendelg that I will answer in less than 50 words.

Which CB wins the nickel spot?

How many safeties do we carry on the 53 man roster?

Any idea why we’re not seeing any 3-4 in the pre-season games? Are we just trying not to tip our hand?

Any thoughts on why special teams is looking so horrible?

--grendelg

Robert McClain. Josh Wilson's still fighting for it, though.

Four-to-five, depending on whether Dwight Lowery is actually healthy.

Trying not to tip their hands, yes, and trying to get everyone acclimated to playing in chiefly nickel sets. No sense in rolling out anything fancy in preseason.

No great blocking personnel, lot of rookies, preseason woes.

No. The Falcons will give Steven Jackson plenty of carries if he's healthy, but even if he's not, the team will likely lean more heavily on Devonta Freeman or Jacquizz Rodgers. Antone Smith will likely only be good for a handful of carries a game, and in true Antone Smith fashion, he'll likely be phased out of the ground game entirely some weeks. If Freeman continues to impress and Jackson comes back, you'll likely see Rodgers fairly limited, too. There won't be a true platoon, in other words, and you should anticipate 1-2 of these backs will dominate the picture.

I think it depends entirely on who is released. The Falcons have some interesting players on the line and could, in theory, weather the season as they are now, presuming they can stay healthy. Linebacker remains a relative weakness, but again, teams would have to cut a player who was a reasonable upgrade for the corps. I'm not ruling that out by a long shot, but whoever this player is would have to learn quickly to get into the lineup.

That leaves safety, and that seems like the most likely area to upgrade. Dwight Lowery is fighting through concussion issues, Dezmen Southward and Kemal Ishmael are probably useful backups but could be stretched as starters in 2014 and Tyrell Johnson and Sean Baker aren't realistic candidates to be more than the fifth safety on the team. I think if a decent starter or even high-end reserve shakes loose, the Falcons will be in hot pursuit.

I'm actually less worried about the secondary, excepting free safety, than I am about any other piece of the defense. The pass rush doesn't appear likely to materialize, we're still waiting to see how the beefy dudes up front come together and the linebacking corps is, as I may have mentioned like two paragraphs ago, a question mark. By contrast, a secondary that features Desmond Trufant, William Moore, Robert Alford and some interesting veteran corners looks pretty nice.

I chalk a lot of the struggles up to preseason communication issues for this secondary, though I'll be watching them closely in the Titans game to see if there's improvement. I think between Josh Wilson, Javier Arenas and Robert McClain, someone will step up and provide a quality presence at nickel cornerback.

I know there have been reports that the team truly likes Courtney Roby, and the special teams struggles thus far in preseason likely have something to do with that. I wouldn't necessarily count on Roby making the roster, especially over Reedy.

Roby truly offers virtually nothing as a receiver, so he would purely be on the field for special teams. Even if he does stick, he'd likely be gone the instant Drew Davis returned, because Davis is faster, younger and has quietly been a core special teams piece over the last couple of seasons. Reedy, meanwhile, is a developmental receiver and returner who will be more useful down the line than right now, but certainly you don't cut him in favor of Courtney Roby.

This is the question that launched 400-plus comments the other night, and will continue to crop up throughout the season no matter how the Falcons fare. I've gone on record before with my belief that a losing season does not guarantee Smith or Dimitroff goes, much less both of them. I do believe another horrendous 4-12 season might be enough to doom them, but I'm not sure if there's a magic win total that will convince Arthur Blank it's time to move on. A winning record and tangible progress almost certainly buys them another year, though.

Gruden's been flirting with franchises for years now and hasn't been coaxed out, but don't bet against Blank if he truly wants a coach like Chucky around. Let me note that this is an extreme hypothetical and even if Smith was fired, I'd put the chances of Gruden-to-Atlanta at 10% or less.

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