Some interesting names are on the inactive list today for the Falcons in the season finale: place kicker Steve Hauschka and defensive linemen Jamaal Anderson (chest) and Thomas Johnson (knee).
That means that Matt Bryant, the former Tampa Bay kicker, likely will be well enough to kick against his former team despite the hamstring injury he suffered while punting last week in place of Michael Koenen, who was out with a head injury at the time.
On the defensive line, I believe it’s the first time this season that the Falcons have two starters out.
Chauncey Davis, who had that big blocked field goal against the Jets and the forced fumble that resulted in Lawrence Sidbury’s defensive score in last week’s win over Buffalo, earns the start for Anderson and rookie Vance Walker, the team’s seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech in 2009, earns his first NFL start.
What a journey for Walker.
He has gone from inactive for the season’s first six games to rising past others on the depth chart, helped along by injuries to Peria Jerry and now Johnson, to starting. He has earned it. He has played the team’s last 10 games and has 12 tackles, including 11 solo. He also has defended two passes — meaning he knocked them down at the line of scrimmage.
In previous weeks, the following sentence would have been the first one of this post: Matt Ryan (injured toe) will start at quarterback and Michael Turner (sprained ankle) will be inactive. However, at this juncture, it’s not much of surprise that Turner will miss his second-straight game and Ryan will start his third straight after missing most of three games.
Since He was injured on Nov. 15 against Carolina, Turner has played in only two of the teams final seven games, having carried the ball only 13 times for 40 yards and re-injuring himself in each of those games in which he appeared. It’s sort of a sad commentary on the way the season went, but not at all surprising that the Falcons were not so successful down the stretch, considering they were mostly without the services of a player who rushed for 1,699 yards last season and finished third in the MVP balloting. Jerious Norwood will start in Turner’s place.
The other inactives are: John Parker Wilson (third quarterback), wide receiver Troy Bergeron, fullback Verron Haynes and safety Charlie Peprah.