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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – First, it was safety Keanu Neal. Then, it was linebacker Deion Jones. Running back Devonta Freeman was next, and on Tuesday we learned that left guard Andy Levitre is out for the season for the Atlanta Falcons.
They have been hit hard by injuries, and it will now be a challenge for this team, especially with the enemy, the New Orleans Saints, coming to Atlanta this Sunday. Jones and Freeman will be back sometime this season, but Neal and Levitre are gone for the year. Due to the salary cap, it’s not easy to have depth in the NFL, so the Falcons are going to have to survive.
They looked okay the other day on defense, so maybe they do have the talent to compensate for the losses of Neal and Jones. But the offensive line issue is the problem. I really don’t care about Freeman being out. Tevin Coleman is better than Freeman at running back anyway, but the problem may be at left guard. The Falcons knew that Levitre was getting older and had been injured late last season, but they brought him back for this season and did not get anyone to back him up.
They could have drafted an offensive lineman, but they believed last year’s fourth rounder, Sean Harlow, would develop into Levitre’s main backup. Well, Harlow was released at the end of training camp. And now, the Falcons have to lean on Wes Schweitzer, who was the starter last year at right guard, and Ben Garland to help the offensive line. If they can’t adequately protect quarterback Matt Ryan, and open holes for Coleman, the Falcons can forget about the playoffs. It is that important.
Schweitzer must be the man and help keep the offensive line together. Remember, two years ago when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl, they did not have one offensive lineman miss one game. All five were in place for the entire season, and that was a huge reason the Falcons won the NFC. That shows you how important the line of scrimmage is. We talk about it all the time. Look at how Georgia has made the lines of scrimmage a priority compared to years past. Kirby Smart made it the most important aspect of his team in Athens, and they are now one of the best college teams in the country.
The Falcons may not be able to bring in anyone else, so they just have to make this work. This team was – on paper – a solid contender to once again go deep in the playoffs. But with all of these injuries, they must survive in what looks to be a tough NFC South.
The first test with this adjusted roster will be this Sunday with the Saints, and regardless of how injured the Falcons are, they cannot lose that game. That’s the most important thing for the season – they cannot lose to New Orleans. And maybe if they get past this game, the Falcons can overcome a cruel run of injuries.