What you need to know about Dante Fowler's return

The Falcons announce that Dante Fowler has been activated off IR. In a corresponding move, fellow OLB Steven Means is placed on IR.

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Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. #6 during team practice at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Friday November 12, 2021. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta Falcons)

DALLAS -- After missing three games on injured reserve with a knee injury, Dante Fowler was designated to return to practice this week. He entered into a 21-day period in which the Falcons could activate him to the 53-man roster. Fowler didn't need 21 days as the Falcons activated him from injured reserve on Saturday, making him eligible to play against the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday.

After practicing all week without a setback, Arthur Smith said on Friday the coaching staff would make a final decision on Fowler this weekend. And a decision on Fowler came at the perfect time as the Falcons simultaneously ruled out Steven Means (knee) from Sunday's game and placed him on IR. 

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This means Atlanta gets its most productive pass rusher back, which is good news for the Falcons who have had to try to make up for Fowler's absence by committee. Prior to his injury, Fowler had earned two sacks and two forced fumbles through the first few weeks of the season. 

Rookie Ade Ogundeji and former free agent James Vaughters were two players who saw an uptick in live game reps in the wake of Fowler's injury last month, as did Brandon Copeland, too. Vaughters - particularly - has been productive for the Falcons since signing to the 53-man roster two weeks ago. He had a game-changing strip sack last week against New Orleans that Means recovered and returned to the six yard line. 

Though the Falcons lose Means for Sunday's game in Dallas, they do get Fowler back. This activation helps softens the blow considerably in regards to the Falcons pass rush.

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