FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – If starting cornerback Robert Alford is unable to play Sunday because of an ankle injury, rookie Isaiah Oliver will get the starting nod.
Injuries are obviously a part of the game and the Falcons have certainly had to deal with their fair share of them this season, especially on defense. One positive that can come out of an injury, however, is that it gives another player an opportunity to step up and that's been the case for Oliver.
Oliver has played in five games so far this season and has started one of them. He's also recorded 10 tackles.
The transition from the college game to the NFL is one that sometimes takes time and Oliver has seen that firsthand. That's why getting game reps as a rookie is a big deal, even if the result doesn't go as planned.
"Getting those reps early on in the year is always going to help you in the future," Oliver said. "Every rep you get is going to help you, for sure."
Veteran wide receiver, Julio Jones, remembers what it's like to be a rookie. Mistakes will be made, but for every mistake, it allows a player to grow.
"[For] a young guy, it's all about confidence. He can do everything – he has the size, he has the speed. He just had to settle in," Jones said. "You have to get beat a couple of times to be battle tested. If Rocky can't go, I have all of the confidence he'll go out there and play and do a great job for us."
For Oliver, the biggest adjustment he's had to make in his game is learning the new scheme and getting used to the speed of the game.
"It's just so much different than college is," Oliver said on what's been the hardest part of the transition. "Whether it's the speed of the game, or even the concepts or schemes we play here are different than I've ever played before. Just the general of aspect of things took time and hours of practice to really be able to understand all the way."
According to head coach Dan Quinn, that practice is really starting to pay off as Oliver is "certainly gaining confidence."
And that's a good thing as the Falcons will need all hands on deck on defense to slow the Redskins (5-2) on Sunday.