Unfortunately, Atlanta’s starting left guard is going to be on the shelf for a while.
The news that Elijah Wilkinson was going to miss his second game of the 2022 season was unwelcome news indeed, given that he’s helped pave the way for a great ground game all year for our Falcons. The news is that he’s headed to injured reserve is even more unwelcome, and it may set Matt Hennessy up for an extended stint at left guard.
Per the team, Wilkinson will be out for at least four games with a knee injury, part of a veritable blizzard of Saturday afternoon moves for the Falcons. We know that Cordarrelle Patterson was just activated off injured reserve and is returning tomorrow, which is great, but it’s unfortunate they’re not going to be able to field an offensive line at full strength to help Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and Caleb Huntley roll against the Chargers. We certainly hope Wilkinson is back as soon as he can be, and that his recovery goes well after he’s done impressive work in his first career action at left guard.
In other moves, the Falcons:
- Cut Quinton Bell and added Jalen Dalton to the active roster. Bell had been a core special teamer for a few weeks and chipped in on defense as a reserve, but his playing time fell after Week 5 and he hadn’t appeared in either of the past two games. He may well find himself on the practice squad shortly.
Dalton, meanwhile, will help bolster a defensive line that could use bolstering. He played sparingly against the Panthers—just 16% of the defensive snaps—but must have done enough to impress the coaching staff. Given that the pass rush has been shaky and D’Onta Foreman just killed the line, Dalton can’t really do much but help.
- Elevated Jovante Moffatt and Ryan Neuzil from the practice squad for Sunday. Moffatt will serve as the team’s fourth or fifth safety, depending on whether they want to utilize Mike Ford there at all Sunday, and essentially takes over the major special teams role vacated when Dean Marlowe was traded to the Bills. He can only be elevated one more time without needing a permanent call-up, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him in the coming weeks.
Neuzil is up because he has the ability to play center and guard, having spent the summer cross-training at center, and that’s an important addition given that Hennessy is expected to start at left guard. That would leave the team with no clear backup at center, and if the Falcons are going to have Hennessy roll at left guard for the next month-plus instead of Colby Gossett, they’ll likely need to find a way to get Neuzil on the roster on a more permanent basis. Much may depend on how Hennessy does Sunday.
That’s a lot of moves and a busy Saturday, and we’ll see how things shake out tomorrow. For now, we’ll just hope Wilkinson is healthy soon and Hennessy shines in his new role.