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Quinn braces for big round of cuts
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Cut-down day is no fun for Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
This year, the cuts will be especially brutal. Instead of spreading the decisions over two deadlines as in previous years, NFL coaches and general managers must cut rosters from 90 to 53 players by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
Quinn said Tuesday he and his staff poured over "all our tapes" on Monday night, studying each Atlanta player whose job is on the line.
Some decisions could hinge on Thursday night's final preseason game against Jacksonville. Some starters may not play as the focus will be on backups competing for roster spots. The Falcons also will keep 11 on their practice squad, including an international player exemption for tight end Alex Gray, from London.
"We're just trying to be thorough and trying to make sure we make the best decisions we can," Quinn said. He said cutting players is "not one of the favorite parts" of his job.
The Falcons' cuts could come on Friday.
Quinn listed the secondary, linebacker, defensive end, offensive guard and wide receiver as among the areas where roster spots are on the line.
The Falcons also must make a decision on cornerback Jalen Collins , who is suspended for the first 10 games of the season. It is his second suspension for a violation of the league's policy on performance enhancers.
Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer are competing for the starting job at right guard. There are other less-publicized battles for backup jobs.
"This is tough because there are some guys who are really battling for it," Quinn said. "We are fortunate we have a few positions with guys that are really in that spot."
Injuries can impact decisions. Offensive tackle Austin Pasztor, who has a pectoral injury, won't play against Jacksonville. Quinn also said he hopes Pasztor will be cleared for team activities next week, a possible indicator Pasztor will make the team as a backup over Kevin Graf, who is out with an ankle injury.
Rookie running back Brian Hill, a fifth-round pick from Wyoming, won't play against the Jaguars after leaving last week's loss to Arizona with an ankle injury. The injury could be devastating to Hill's hopes of beating out Terron Ward as the team's third running back behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Quinn likes Hill's work on special teams, so it's possible the team could keep four running backs.
Freeman was cleared from his concussion protocol after participating only in individual drills on Monday. He wore a black non-contact jersey on Tuesday but otherwise had no limitations.
Freeman, who spent two weeks in the concussion protocol, will not play against Jacksonville. Barring a setback, he should be ready for the team's first regular-season game at Chicago on Sept. 10.
Quarterback Matt Ryan said having Freeman back in practice gave the team a boost.
"Anytime you get him back on the field and back to work, it's a good thing," Ryan said. "I think he's done a good job all through training camp. He had some time to sit out but he looks pretty good coming back. I'm sure he'll be ready to go once we roll around to week one."