2018 Atlanta Falcons starters, 53-man roster, schedule prediction

The Falcons are counting on big seasons once again from receiver Julio Jones (11) and quarterback Matt Ryan. Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons 52-man roster heading into the 2018 season (starters in bold). The Falcons have one spot remaining to fill out the 53-man limit:

QUARTERBACK (2): Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

Ryan, 33, briefly was the league's highest-paid player after signing a five-year extension worth $30 million per year with $100 million guaranteed. Now the one-time MVP seeks his first Super Bowl title. Schaub, 37, has been a great resource for Ryan.

RUNNING BACK (3): Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith

Freeman was held out of the preseason coming off a serious knee injury and has multiple concussion during his NFL career, but he feels confident and healthy going into 2018. Coach Dan Quinn singled out Coleman's strong preseason play.

FULLBACK (1): Ricky Ortiz

The Falcons need a reliable lead blocker in short-yardage situations. If a better option than Ortiz arises, expect the Falcons to look into it.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Russell Gage

Jones didn't play in any of the preseason games but proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy. Ridley, the rookie first-round draft pick, should help take some of the defensive attention away from Jones.

TIGHT END (3): Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert

Hooper, who spent extra time in the offseason working with Ryan, hopes to have a breakout season as a pass-catcher and has improved in the run game. Paulsen was brought in as a veteran blocker.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Brandon Fusco, Ryan Schraeder, Wes Schweitzer, Ben Garland, Matt Gono, Ty Sambrailo

The perennial Pro Bowler Mack is the anchor at center. Matthews just received a five-year, $75 million extension. And Fusco is the newcomer at right guard, so we'll see if he holds up against some rather dominant defensive tackles on the schedule.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Terrell McClain, Takk McKinley, Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby, Deadrin Senat, Jack Crawford, Justin Zimmer

Beasley is expected to regain the form that made him the NFL's sack leader a few seasons ago as he concentrates strictly on defensive end. Jarrett is among the league's best tackles. McKinley has to avoid injury woes after having surgery on both shoulders.

LINEBACKER (6) Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley, Foyesade Oluokun, Kemal Ishmael, Richard Jarvis.

Jones, a one-time Pro Bowler who was slowed in the preseason by a strain could be the league's best coverage linebacker. Campbell is an extremely confident player who can shut down just about any opposing tight end.

SECONDARY (10): Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Brian Poole, Damontae Kazee, Isaiah Oliver, Justin Bethel, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jordan Richards.

Trufant has to regain the swagger he had before a pectoral injury ended his 2016 season prematurely. The hard-hitting Neal is the Falcons' version of a healthy Kam Chancellor, and Quinn said Neal has gotten even better this preseason. The Falcons will find packages to get the playmaking Kazee on the field after a strong preseason.

SPECIALISTS (3): K Matt Bryant, P Matt Bosher, LS Josh Harris

Bryant, at age 43, still appears to have some leg left despite being held out a lot of the preseason action. Bosher has been solid. And Harris just does his job.