Falcons top 10 breakout season players in 2020: Russell Gage

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Editor's note:This is the fifth story in a 10-part series counting down the top 10 Atlanta Falcons players our writers believe are most likely to have a breakout season in 2020. The definition of breakout, for the purpose of this list, is a player who shows sudden significant improvement.

If individual awards were given out for each team following the season, it'd be hard to argue against Russell Gage as the Atlanta Falcons' most improved player in 2019.

Gage, 24, is poised for an even bigger season in 2020 considering he enters the year as the Falcons' No. 3 wide receiver. The sixth-round pick out of LSU has certainly exceeded the expectations set by many when he was drafted. The Falcons thought Gage's biggest impact would come on special teams and as it turns out, they were wrong.

After the Falcons traded wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots for a second-round pick in late October in the 2019 season, Gage's role increased significantly in Atlanta's offense.

With a year's worth of game experience under his belt, Gage could be a name Falcons fans hear often in the upcoming season.

TOP 10 BREAKOUT SEASON COUNTDOWN

Body of work

When asked about expectations for Gage heading into his third season, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said he thinks "we will see a jump in his game." Based off his production in the final nine games of the 2019 season, it's easy to see why Koetter believes so.

Gage caught 45 passes for 402 yards and a touchdown during the final nine games when the Falcons went 6-3 to close out the year. In the first seven games, Gage caught four passes for 44 yards.

Mostly utilized in the slot, Gage racked up 50-plus receiving yards four different times. The former LSU Tiger averaged 4.6 targets per game last year with four starts.

In his first season with the Falcons, Gage saw limited action on offense. Catching just six passes for 63 yards, his role was prominently at gunner on special teams where he recorded seven tackles.

Poised for a breakout

With more confidence and experience in Koetter's offense, Gage will have the chance to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups he'll likely get based the attention Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will see.

Barring any injuries, Gage's spot on the depth chart is pretty much a lock at this point. Olamide Zaccheaus, Laquon Treadwell, Christian Blake, Devin Gray, Brandon Powell, Chris Rowland, Jalen McCleskey and Juwan Green will compete for the final spots in the wide receiver room.

The Falcons have high expectations for their passing attack that now also includes tight end Hayden Hurst and running back Todd Gurley. Atlanta finished No. 13 in points per game with 23.8 in the 2019 season.

And to add to list of reasons to be optimistic about Gage's potential, here's what Matt Ryan had to about his wide receiver this offseason:

"Russell Gage has been amazing. He's a guy that I think feels a lot more comfortable after having played the second half of last season. He's in a spot where he knows his role and he knows how we're going to use him."

We are counting down the top 10 Falcons players our writers believe are most likely to have a breakout season in 2020. The definition of breakout, for the purpose of this list, is a player who shows sudden significant improvement.

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