Falcons WR Jones expected to be full strength for opener
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Coach Dan Quinn expects All-Pro receiver Julio Jones to be full strength when the Atlanta Falcons install their game plan for Sunday’s opener against Tampa Bay.
Jones sprained his ankle in the third preseason game at Miami, but Quinn believes he will fully participate on Wednesday.
The Falcons are mostly healthy even though free safety Keanu Neal is sidelined at least another two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
Kemal Ishmael, who will replace Neal, is expected to fully participate Wednesday after hurting his shoulder. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn (shoulder) and Dwight Freeney (back) should be fine, too.
’We’ve got a good, healthy roster,” Quinn said Monday. “They had a few days to be off and treat (injuries), so honestly we’re so thrilled to get rolling.”
Receiver Taylor Gabriel, claimed off waivers Sunday from Cleveland, will compete for the No. 4 receiver’s job and play several roles on special teams. The Falcons needed his versatility after rookie Devin Fuller, a seventh-round draft pick, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury a couple of weeks ago.
Chris Chester will start at right guard after beating out rookie Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round draft pick. Vic Beasley, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon will start at linebacker, but rookies Deion Jones, a second-round pick, and De’Vondre Campbell, a fourth-round pick, will play significant roles.
“We’ll have certain packages that each of them do,” Quinn said. “It’s a very deep group. Some will be a bigger factor on first and second downs, some will have a bigger role on third down. All of them will have a big role on special teams.”
With Jalen Collins suspended four games for violating league rules on performance-enhancing substances, former receiver C.J. Goodwin is the No. 3 cornerback behind starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.