FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons have a number of decisions to make before they face the Jets in London on Sunday. What originally began as a week in which the Falcons needed to account for injuries to key members of their secondary (Isaiah Oliver and potentially Erik Harris), has now turned into a week where they are facing the need to account for the absence of Calvin Ridley, too.
Ridley did not practice on Thursday prior to the team leaving for London. It was announced Ridley is dealing with a personal matter and will not be traveling with the team nor will he play on Sunday.
This leaves the Falcons without their No. 1 and No. 2 receiver.
Russell Gage has been dealing with an ankle injury for the last two weeks. He missed both the Giants and Washington games. He has not practiced since Week 2. And it was decided after Thursday's practice that Gage would not make the trip to London either.
With both Ridley and Gage out, the Falcons passing attack takes a major hit in Week 5.
So, where does this development leave the Falcons?
Olamide Zaccheaus has stepped up to fill Gage's spot the last two weeks, and the expectation would be that he continues to do so. Meanwhile, Christian Blake and Tajae Sharpe could potentially share the Ridley load. Ridley has been targeted 42 times through four games, and has a total of 255 receiving yards and one touchdown.
As for depth, the Falcons should have Frank Darby active on Sunday. Atlanta may also need to take it a step further and pull one of their practice squad receivers up for depth. The options there are Keelan Doss, Juwan Green and Austin Trammell.
However, one thing to keep in mind about this offense is that the wide receivers room does not carry the full load of the passing game. With the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst, Atlanta does have options in the passing game that do not fall under the normal wide receiver category. In fact, all four of Matt Ryan's touchdowns this past Sunday were to running backs: Patterson had three, Davis had one. So, Ridley and Gage's absence doesn't necessarily change any of these individual's specific role in the pass game, but it does make it easier on the Jets defense knowing they do not have to account for Ridley or Gage. It makes it that much easier for Pitts to be doubled.
The Falcons have their work cut out for them in London, and the team will be calling upon it's depth to step in for a number of starters. The Falcons lack of depth in certain spots has been an important topic of conversation through the offseason and preseason. That depth will be challenged on Sunday.
+ Avery Williams was limited in practice on Thursday with a hamstring issue. This development is one to watch in the coming days with the Falcons. Williams played in the slot for Oliver when he left Sunday's game with a season-ending knee injury. Though Arthur Smith and Dean Pees said they had a lot to figure out about what the nickel rotation would be, Williams was a leading candidate. If Williams can't get to 100 percent before Sunday, the Falcons will have to go back to the drawing board again and look to move someone inside: Fabian Moreau or TJ Green are the leading candidates to do so now.
+ There is still questions remaining about Harris' health. He left Sunday's game with a calf injury, and he has yet to practice this week. It's still possible Harris travels to London and gets in some practice time later in the week to see if he can get to go-ahead to play on Sunday, but that's a big if. And if he can't get the green light, Jaylinn Hawkins will be the one to start alongside Duron Harmon. Expect Richie Grant to see more time in rotation if the Falcons have to account for Harris' potential absence.
+ Marlon Davidson is still dealing with an ankle injury and did not practice again on Thursday. He did not travel to London with the team. So, it'll be a little while longer until he makes it back to the playing field.
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