Irons makes Falcons' roster
Shockley beats out Harrington for No. 3 QB

David Irons missed part of the preseason because of a hamstring strain, but that didn't keep the former Dacula standout from making the Atlanta Falcons roster.

Irons, a special teams standout as a rookie, survived as the Falcons made 22 moves on Saturday to get down to the NFL's mandatory 53-player limit.

D.J. Shockley made the team as the third quarterback, beating out Joey Harrington. The former Georgia player missed last season because of a knee injury.

Running back Thomas Brown, another former Bulldog, will miss this year after being hurt in the preseason finale at Baltimore. The rookie from Tucker was put on injured reserve.

In addition to Harrington, other veteran players cut included guard Kynan Forney and tight end Marcus Pollard, who was just signed recently.

Irons beat out rookies Glenn Sharpe and Wilrey Fontenot for a backup spot at cornerback, but his real value is as a cover man on kickoffs and punts. The former Auburn player led the Falcons with 13 special-team tackles and recovered a fumble last year.

Irons is one of two former Gwinnett County high school stars on the Falcons. Veteran kicker Jason Elam, a Brookwood graduate, was signed as a free agent during the offseason after playing 15 seasons with Denver.

The Falcons finished the preseason 2-2 with a 10-9 victory at Baltimore on Thursday night and will open the regular season a week from today at the Georgia Dome against Detroit.

Brown, plagued by injuries at Georgia, was hurt in the third quarter against the Ravens when Baltimore linebacker Gary Stills made an illegal horse-collar tackle. Brown was battling Chris Snelling for a roster spot at running back behind Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood.

First-round draft choice Matt Ryan will get the start at quarterback against the Lions, backed up by veteran Chris Redman. Ryan had a solid preseason, although he was not at his best against the Ravens.

Ryan will be one of three rookie starters for Atlanta. Sam Baker will play left tackle and Curtis Lofton middle linebacker.

"We are pleased about our roster," first-year general manager Thomas Dimitroff said.

Veteran wide receiver Brian Finneran, who had a strong preseason, made the team after missing the past two years with knee injuries.

Familiar names dropped included defensive end Brandon Miller, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley, safety Daren Stone and guard D'Anthony Batiste.

"It's always difficult to release players knowing how hard everyone in the locker room has worked," first-year coach Mike Smith said.

SideBar: NFL Opener

Who: Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons

When: Sept. 7, 1 p.m.

Where: Georgia Dome

TV: Fox