Falcons could welcome back important piece of defense ahead of Bucs matchup

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As everyone expected, the Falcons have a chance to gain sole possession of first place in the NFC South this Sunday. Atlanta sits at 2-2 and will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Bucs, who are also 2-2. Also, the Falcons could welcome back an important piece of the defense ahead of the matchup; Isaiah Oliver has been designated to return off the IR.

Now, I must specify. Oliver has been designated to return but isn’t guaranteed to play this week or at all. The move starts a 21-day window where Oliver can practice, but the Falcons must activate Oliver to the 53-man roster within the 21-day window or place him on the season-ending IR. That period began Wednesday.

Oliver tore his ACL in Week 4 of the 2021 season and has been rehabbing. Despite practicing throughout the offseason and participating in a handful of snaps during the preseason, the coaching staff was clearly unsatisfied with his pace. Hopefully, with another four weeks of rehab, Oliver is at or close to 100% because he’s a fantastic piece for Dean Pees’ defense.

Since Oliver went down with the injury, the nickel position has been a revolving door, featuring Dee Alford, Darren Hall, and Mike Ford. Alford actually came up with a game-winning interception last week against the Browns, but if Oliver is playing at the level he was prior to the injury, he’s certainly an upgrade.

The nickel position is an extremely difficult one to play in this defense because Pees requires the slot corner to support the run, drop into a litany of coverages, and blitz the quarterback — all of which Oliver is capable of doing. Obviously, coming back from a torn ACL is challenging. But if Isaiah Oliver can return to even 80% of the player he was, the defense will become that much more dangerous. 

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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