Falcons' talent on improved defensive line goes deep in projected 53-man roster

The Falcons are looking to Grady Jarrett to build on his breakout Super Bowl performance. Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here's a final 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

Ryan, the reigning MVP, hasn't missed a game since 2009. He has experience behind him in Schaub, who has 92 career starts.

RUNNING BACKS (4): Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward, Brian Hill

Freeman and Coleman, with a combined 4,527 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns over the past two seasons, are one of the best running back duos in the NFL. Freeman appears set for Week 1 after progressing through the concussion protocol. Ward, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2015, saw plenty of time this preseason with Freeman missing two games.

FULLBACK (1): Derrick Coleman

The first legally deaf offensive player in NFL history, Coleman has a relentless work ethic and can keep up to speed on offense thanks, in part, to reading lips.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, Andre Roberts, Reggie Davis

The perennial Pro Bowler Jones barely broke a sweat playing a few snaps of one preseason game as he worked his way back from surgery to remove a bunion on his left foot. Sanu has been strong and sure-handed, and Gabriel is a dangerous, speedy deep threat.

TIGHT END (3): Austin Hooper, Levine Toilolo, Joshua Perkins

Hooper is ready to take that next step in his second season and has become a much better route runner. Toilolo has found a niche in blocking.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Wes Schweitzer, Ryan Schraeder, Ben Garland, Sean Harlow, Austin Pasztor, D.J. Tialavea

With veteran Chris Chester retiring, the competition for the starting right guard spot has been intense between Schweitzer and Garland. Matthews, a former first-round pick, has to take his game to another level and be a difference-maker coming off a costly Super Bowl mistake. Mack is the line's anchor and Schraeder has become a force.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Grady Jarrett, Dontari Poe, Takkarist McKinley, Ra'Shede Hageman, Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, Courtney Upshaw, Jack Crawford

Although much of the attention is focused on the addition of the two-time Pro Bowler Poe, Jarrett is a guy with superstar potential coming off a three-sack performance in the Super Bowl. First-round pick McKinley brings relentless rush ability and more toughness up front.

LINEBACKER (6): Vic Beasley Jr., Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley, Jermaine Grace, Kemal Ishmael

Outside linebacker Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season and honed his craft this summer at Von Miller's pass-rush summit. The speedy Jones impressed in his first year, leading all rookies with 108 tackles. After undergoing Lasik surgery this offseason, Campbell should see things better in Year 2. Keep an eye out for the rookie Riley, who has impressed with his motor and energy.

CORNERBACK (6): Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, C.J. Goodwin, Brian Poole, Deji Olatoye, Blidi Wreh-Wilson

The return of the Pro Bowler Trufant from last year's season-ending pectoral surgery will be a tremendous boost for the defense. Alford has all the tools to be special but needs to avoid penalties. The guy to watch is Goodwin, a converted receiver with tremendous athleticism who continues to grow into the position.

SAFETY (4): Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Sharrod Neasmann

Allen is a leader who understands the defense better than anybody, and new defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel raved about what Allen brings to the team. Neal is a hard hitter in the mold of Kam Chancellor. The rookie Kazee has ball-hawking ability, but has missed time with an ankle injury. He is expected to be back on the field next week. Ishmael's ability to slide over to safety gives them insurance in case anything happens to Neal.

SPECIALISTS (3): Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris.

The 42-year-old Bryant is still productive entering his 17th season and ninth in Atlanta. His 158 points last season were a career high. Bosher has been consistent over his six-year run with the Falcons.

Vaughn McClure contributed to this report.