Philadelphia Eagles versus Atlanta: 5 Under-the-radar Falcons to watch
By Hunter Doyle
Atlanta’s WR2 will test Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary.
Darius Slay versus Calvin Ridley is sure to be an entertaining matchup, but the Falcons’ other starting wideout can also do damage. Russell Gage is a pretty well-known name but still doesn’t quite get the recognition he deserves.
Last year, he quietly put up 786 yards and four touchdowns. Most of those yards came in the slot where he flourished. The LSU product has shown improvement in each of his three years in the league. Now, he enters his contract year looking to take his game to the next level as the second wideout and earn a large sum of money in free agency.
The Falcons’ official depth chart lists two starting tight ends indicating that they’ll likely go with more 12 personnel. It makes sense considering that Julio Jones is gone and their options for the WR3 spot are Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake, and Tajae Sharpe. Rookie wideout Frank Darby could force his way onto the field as the year moves on but that remains to be seen. Expect Zaccheaus to take the reps in 11 personnel for now.
That lack of depth at wideout makes Gage’s role even more significant in 2021. He’ll likely line up across from Steven Nelson for most of the game. Even when Zaccheaus is on the field, Avonte Maddox will match up much better with him in terms of size.
Nelson has experience in the slot so he can follow Gage there if needed when the Birds are in man coverage. While Nelson is coming off of a rough 2020 campaign, he is looking to bounce back in a big way. On the other hand, Gage will still be looking to show that he can do damage against experienced cornerbacks.