Arthur Smith rules out critical piece, paves way for Falcons rookie

NFL: OCT 01 International Series Falcons vs Jaguars

The Falcons will welcome back Drake London this week in Arizona after missing the Vikings matchup with a groin injury, but the defense will be shorthanded against the Cardinals.

Arthur Smith announced on Friday that Mack Hollins and Dee Alford are out for Sunday’s tilt and that David Onyemata‘s status is questionable.

It goes without saying that Onyemata’s absence is the most critical to the defense’s success. With Grady Jarrett out, the Falcons haven’t been able to stop a cold and you can forget about a pass rush. If the veteran can’t go, Atlanta’s interior could look putrid.

We do know that Hollins and Alford are out. The former has effectively been phased out of the offense and relegated to special teams duties, but the latter’s presence has been a revelation. Alford has taken over the slot and been a bright spot in an otherwise dim first half of the season for the Falcons. He will be dearly missed.

In his absence, Ryan Nielsen will turn to Mike Hughes and Clark Phillips.

Hughes’ free agent deal is one of the few misses of Terry Fontenot’s work on the pro personnel side of things, which I touched on earlier in the week.

It’s the classic “we paid this guy too much and need to find something for him to do” schtick, and it’s gone as poorly as expected. He’s had multiple gaffes on punt returns, none more brazen than last week against the Titans. Hughes inexplicably fielded a punt at the one-yard line and then called a fair catch at the seven-yard line later in the game, resulting in him losing his job.

On Sunday against the Vikings, Hughes was forced into the game after an injury to Dee Alford. It looked like he lost Brandon Powell in coverage on what became the game-winning touchdown for Minnesota.

Clark, on the other hand, has yet to make his Falcons debut on the defense. He hasn’t recorded a snap but made plays throughout the offseason and preseason that prompted many to believe he had a chance to challenge Dee Alford for the starting nickel role.

I think the way the position battle played out was more indicative of Alford’s level of play than anything. Phillips has a knack for being around the ball and could potentially have a chance to showcase that skill set this Sunday. One thing is clear, Mike Hughes has been a liability thus far and will be targeted if he gets the nod over Phillips.

Photographer: Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire



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