Fal­cons have help if thin at WR Sun­day

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Charles Odum As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer

FLOW­ERY BRANCH — A bye week has pro­vided no as­sur­ance Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan will have all his wide re­ceivers healthy for Sun­day’s game against Mi­ami.

Start­ing re­ceivers Julio Jones and Mo­hamed Sanu were hurt and missed the sec­ond half of At­lanta’s 23-17 loss to Buf­falo on Oct. 1. Jones ap­pears to be on track to play against the Dol­phins, though he only had lim­ited avail­abil­ity on Wednesday as he re­turns from a hip in­jury. Sanu hasn’t re­turned to prac­tice.

Backup Justin Hardy, who had the team’s only touch­down catch against Buf­falo, also was out Wednesday with an ill­ness.

Taylor Gabriel could move up as a starter in two-re­ceiver sets.

Coach Dan Quinn says run­ning backs Devonta Free­man and Tevin Cole­man give Ryan ef­fec­tive tar­gets as re­ceivers.

“We’re for­tu­nate that we have depth at the (wide re­ceiver) po­si­tion, but we’re also for­tu­nate

we have our run­ning backs,” Quinn said Wednesday. “These guys can re­ally make plays with the ball in their hands, too, not just tak­ing a hand­off but in the pass game as well.”

Cole­man, third on the team with 13 catches, grinned as he talked about the chance to make an even

big­ger im­pact as a re­ceiver.

“I en­joy that a lot, catch­ing the ball out of the back­field, going out there as a re­ceiver and run­ning routes,” Cole­man said be­fore adding for em­pha­sis “I like that a lot. I want to be in open field as much as pos­si­ble.”

Ryan used Cole­man’s 39-yard side­line catch against Buf­falo as an ex­am­ple of how the run­ning backs can play like re­ceivers.

“It’s huge to have those two guys as ver­sa­tile as they are in the pass­ing game,” Ryan said. “You look at the play Tevin made against Buf­falo going down the side­line lay­ing out for a ball on a ver­ti­cal shot down the field. That’s about as good as any wide re­ceiver in the league.”

Free­man had a com­bined 127 re­cep­tions the last two years.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find any­body in the league do­ing a bet­ter job than he is,” said Ryan of Free­man as a re­ceiver.

Sanu (strained ham­string) may be a long­shot to re­turn this week. Quinn re­mained con­fi­dent there will be enough re­ceiv­ing op­tions for Ryan, in­clud­ing tight ends Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo.

“I think the com­bi­na­tion of the re­ceivers, of Hooper’s devel­op­ment, of Levine, and the run­ners, all that maybe picks up some of the tar­gets that went to other guys,” Quinn said.

Ryan and the At­lanta of­fense ap­peared to miss the team’s top two re­ceivers against Buf­falo. The Fal­cons were outscored 16-7 in the sec­ond half as they played with­out Jones and Sanu.

NOTES: LB Vic Beasley (ham­string) also was lim­ited in prac­tice. DL Court­ney Up­shaw (an­kle, knee) did not prac­tice. ... With PK Matt Bryant held out with a back in­jury, the team signed PK Mike Meyer to the prac­tice squad. Meyer was with the team in train­ing camp and the pre­sea­son . ...

The Fal­cons signed DE Jonathan Woodard to the prac­tice squad and placed TE Joshua Perkins on the prac­tice squad in­jured list . ... Quinn said Mon­day and again Wednesday play­ers will stand to­gether, with arms in­ter­locked, dur­ing the national an­them on Sun­day. He said the is­sue was dis­cussed dur­ing the bye week, and the plan is to “move from protest to progress.” Fal­cons play­ers all stood dur­ing the an­them be­fore the Bills game.

File, Nam Y. Huh / The As­so­ci­ated Press

At­lanta may still be with­out No. 2 re­ceiver Mo­hamed Sanu against Miam on Sun­day, which could lead to big­ger re­ceiver roles for play­ers like Taylor Gabriel and tight end Austin Hooper (right).

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