Benkert went undrafted out of Virginia last April and spent the entirety of the 2018 on Atlanta's practice squad. Veteran Matt Schaub is set to hit free agency in 2019, currently leaving the backup quarterback job behind starter Matt Ryan up in the air.
Benkert was announced as one of the Falcons' 10 practice squad members on Sunday, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports.
The undrafted rookie's stat line during the preseason was far from impressive (43.8 completion percentage, zero touchdowns and four interceptions), but he possesses the intangibles personality-wise to become a valuable developmental backup for the Falcons. Though Benkert struggled with throwing accuracy during his first summer in an NFL camp, the Falcons see him as a potential replacement for Matt Schaub as the team's future No. 2 quarterback. If Benkert is able to develop into a serviceable option over the next 12 months, he would provide Atlanta with a younger and more affordable option at the position in comparison to Schaub.
Benkert completed 10-of-25 attempts for 103 passing yards and two interceptions in Thursday's 34-7 loss to the Dolphins.
Though he's turned heads with a number of throws in practice throughout the summer, Benkert left much to be desired in his first preseason as a whole. Following a promising debut in which he completed nine-of-17 attempts for 125 yards, the Virginia standout has completed just 43.8 percent of his throws for less than five yards per attempt in the three outings since. Given the degree to which Atlanta struggled on special teams coverage last season it would be surprising to see the team commit a much-needed roster spot to a third-string quarterback, but Benkert has flashed sufficient arm strength to be considered for a development backup role on the practice squad.
Benkert is expected to receive a heavy workload during Atlanta's preseason finale Thursday against Miami, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Benkert finds himself in the midst of a heated quarterback battle with Garrett Grayson for a potential reserve spot. There's no guarantee the Falcons opt to take three quarterbacks into the regular season, but if they do, the team's fourth preseason contest could yield tremendous weight. Benkert, is considered to be trailing veteran backup Matt Schaub for the No. 2 spot, but a strong finish to the preseason has the power to sway the Falcons' brass.
Benkert said Monday that his main focus for the Falcons' upcoming preseason game against Kansas City will be to trust his pre-snap reads, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "(I'm working on) just cleaning up what I see. Trusting the pre-snap that all my reads are there and then going through them and taking my time and not rushing," Benkert explained after a training camp session at Flowery Branch. "Trying to go through the full progression and get the ball in guys' hands."
The undrafted quarterback out of Virginia held his own during Atlanta's preseason opener against the Jets last Friday, completing nine of 17 attempts for 125 yards with one interception off a batted ball during the fourth quarter. Benkert showed during his collegiate career that he has the ability to light up a box score, setting a school record with 455 yards in an early-season tilt against UCONN last year. That trend continued into his professional debut, as Benkert connected on a number of deep balls, including a 27-yard pass to Dontez Byrd on his first attempt of the night, as well as completions of 23 and 30 yards to Devin Gray later in the game. Head coach Dan Quinn is beginning to take notice, saying Monday that he keeps seeing the arrow going up for Benkert -- "I always like that he has a good deep ball."