The final game of the Atlanta Falcons’ preseason campaign takes place this Saturday when they take on Jacksonville Jaguars at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
With NFL teams cutting their rosters down to 53 next week, this final preseason matchup gives players one last chance to earn a roster spot, or at least improve their chances of being signed to the practice squad.
Here are five players with something to prove in Saturday’s game against the Jaguars.
WR Jared Bernhardt
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I was unsure if Bernhardt was a real candidate to make the Falcons’ 53-man roster, and while it’s still not set in stone, the recent cuts have opened the door for the former lacrosse standout. Bernhardt was a relative unknown coming into camp, but he broke onto the scene during the opener against the Lions. Since that game, Bernhardt’s name has been in the mouths of all Falcons fans. With another strong performance in the preseason finale, Bernhardt could find a way to land on the team’s initial 53-man roster. At a minimum, he has earned a place on the practice squad.
CB Dee Alford
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
While Bernhardt has turned heads on offense, Alford has done the same on defense. Throughout the entirety of training camp, in both games and in practice, Alford has stolen the show. He’s matched up against quality opposition and forced turnovers. In the most recent joint-practice session with the Jaguars, Alford recorded two interceptions. This has become the norm for Alford, and some have named him the MVP of training camp.
S Dean Marlowe
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Dean Marlowe isn’t a player pushing for the starting job, but his role is to be a quality backup at one of the team’s most inexperienced positions. With Richie Grant assuming the starting free safety spot in all likelihood, Marlowe is battling with Erik Harris for the veteran backup role. Harris was the Falcons’ starter a season ago, but if the team opted to move on from him, Marlowe would most likely fill the void. Perhaps Marlowe can make a splash against the Jaguars and leap over Harris on the depth chart going into the season.
HB Qadree Ollison
(AP Photo/John Munson)
The Falcons have a fairly large running back room. There are two players who I feel are near locks in Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams. There is also the situation with cornerback-turned-running back Avery Williams, who should be on the initial 53-man roster due to his return abilities. This could leave the final spot to be decided between rookie Tyler Allgeier and Qadree Ollison. Obviously, Ollison is already at a disadvantage because it’s unlikely the Falcons would part ways with a player they drafted in the fifth round. It’s not over quite yet, though, and Ollison could potentially save his Falcons career with a big game on Saturday.
WR Frank Darby
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Despite being drafted as a wide receiver, Frank Darby has made a bigger impact on special teams than on offense. Darby had just one catch in 2021 and has been mostly quiet through the first two preseason games. He has been targeted five times total and only amassed 14 yards on two receptions. His future in Atlanta is not out wide as an offensive weapon but as a potential gunner. Will Darby’s roster spot get taken by a rookie who is turning heads, or will his special teams value keep him around for another year?