Eight Players to Watch: Falcons vs. Bengals

Eight Players to Watch: Falcons vs. Bengals

Jay Adams

Published August 8, 2013 at 10:11 AM

The 2013 preseason kicks off Thursday night as the Bengals come to the Georgia Dome to face the Falcons on an nationally-televised stage, and while marquee players won’t necessarily be playing much — if at all — in the first exhibition game, there are still plenty of players to keep an eye on.

We know you’ll want to watch Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and the other new additions to the team in their first game action, but there are some players you may never have heard of who are trying to make some noise Thursday.

Here are eight under-the-radar Falcons that are deserving of your attention, in no particular order:

  • LB Nick Clancy — The former Boston College star has quietly made it through OTAs, minicamp and the first part of Russell Athletic Training Camp, but once the pads went on, Clancy started to turn some heads. Listed at No. 2 on the depth chart behind Stephen Nicholas is a pretty big accomplishment for an undrafted rookie, and keeping that spot or progressing up the depth chart will be something to watch for him.
  • LB Joplo Bartu — Another undrafted linebacker, Bartu has become a hot name recently, due to his nice performance at Friday Night Lights and his history of play — however brief — at the linebacker spot. Converted to linebacker in his final four games at Texas State, Bartu racked up 62 tackles in that span, and he’s looked solid in camp.
  • OT Ryan Schraeder — An unknown grunt on the offensive line, Schraeder’s size at 6-foot-7, 300 pounds stands out when he’s in the huddle. The Valdosta State product has had a nice camp and is in the mix to compete with Lamar Holmes after Mike Johnson’s injury at the right tackle spot. Preseason will be a big test for the Division II product.
  • CB Peyton Thompson — The cornerback position has been a huge focus during the preseason, with Trufant and Alford battling it out for the spot opposite Asante Samuel. But second-year CB Peyton Thompson seems to be quietly having a nice preseason. Benefitting from working with the team for an entire offseason after spending last year on the practice squad, Thompson looks to get quite a few snaps in the preseason to see if he’s ready for the next step.
  • RT Lamar Holmes — Holmes is the next man up after news that Johnson would be out for a while. Head coach Mike Smith said that Holmes will see plenty of action Thursday night, which means it’s his time to shine and prove that he can handle the right tackle spot in the long run.
  • LB Brian Banks — It goes without saying that Banks is one to watch during the preseason, but in his first game as an NFL player, this is especially true. Not only is it a huge step in his return to freedom, it’s a gigantic test to see how ready he is after preparing all offseason to start making a mark on the organization. His journey in recent months has so many milestones, and this is another.
  • RB Donald Russell — We discussed earlier this week how No. 33 looks much different than we’re used to, and that’s because the number now belongs to undrafted rookie running back Donald Russell. Showing impressive flashes of quickness during Friday Night Lights, Russell will likely get to see some quality touches against Cincinnati and, as we all know, every snap counts in the preseason for roster hopefuls, so he’ll have to make the best of each one.
  • DE Stansly Maponga — Things get muddy on the depth chart as we look at the defensive end position, with several players, including rookie Maponga, vying for spots behind Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora. Maponga was injured during the offseason and didn’t physically participate in OTAs or minicamps, and while he’s participated in every training camp session so far, he’s still trying to find his football shape.

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