WATCH: Injuries could provide Falcons WR Russell Gage chance to shine in Week 11
There's a cliché in sports when it comes to injuries -- next man up. Sometimes, the "next man up" isn't necessarily playing the same position.
Tight end Austin Hooper and running back Devonta Freeman are both dealing with injuries this week, which they suffered in the victory against the Saints on Sunday. Freeman reportedly has a foot sprain while Hooper suffered a sprained MCL.
According to reports from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Freeman and Hooper will miss multiple weeks. Falcons coach Dan Quinn denied that Wednesday, saying that report was "not from our building." Still, neither practiced Wednesday and both seem to be long shots to play.
Brian Hill and Luke Stocker will replace Freeman and Hooper in the lineup, respectively, if they can't play, but it could actually be wide receiver Russell Gage who benefits the most with more targets without the starting running back and tight end.
Gage has become Atlanta's third wide receiver since the Falcons traded Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots. Since moving Sanu, Gage has 11 receptions on 14 targets for 81 yards in two games. Before the trade, Gage had four catches for 44 yards in seven contests.
Hooper and Freeman have combined to average more than 12 targets per game this season. While Brian Hill and fellow back Kenjon Barner should receive most of what Freeman does, Stocker has shown little this season to suggest he can slide right into the lineup and replace Hooper.
That means Gage will likely be Ryan's third-best option in the passing game this week behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. This may be the former sixth-round pick's shot to prove he should be a bigger part of the offense moving forward.