FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons are placing edge rusher Dante Fowler on injured reserve with a knee injury, the team announced on Friday afternoon.
Fowler will be out at least three games on IR, after which players can be designated to return to the active roster if healthy enough to do so.
His exact recovery timetable is unknown at this stage.
There's no sense in mincing words here. Losing Fowler for any stretch is a significant blow to the Falcons defense.
The Falcons must lean on rookie Ade Ogundeji more with Fowler unavailable. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner will also be a more active contributor off the edge opposite Steven Means, with Brandon Copeland as an option as well. The Falcons have a few pass-rushing options, but none of them come with Fowler's track record.
Fowler led the 2021 team with two sacks, two forced fumbles and 13 total quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Focus, and played a significant amount of snaps.
Improving the pass rush was vital to defensive progress, especially when assigning just four or five to pressure the quarterback. That effort will be more of a challenge during time playing without Fowler, though still possible with the talent on hand.
Fowler didn't practice all week with the knee injury, and played just 25 defensive snaps in a Week 5 victory over the New York Jets. He had been both healthy and productive in early portions of the season, with optimism that trend would continue. He also earned praise from head coach Arthur Smith for doing the little things right, working hard and playing disciplined football in the 2021 season.
This injury is a setback in those efforts, one Fowler will try to rebound from when healthy again.
In other news, the Falcons have signed kicker Elliott Fry to the practice squad and have released safety Dwayne Johnson from the practice squad in a corresponding move.