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Report: Duke Riley undergoes knee surgery, no immediate timetable for return

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The rookie linebacker has had a rough first season.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have had enough misfortune this year, and Duke Riley has not had the rookie year he was hoping for. Blend those two together and you get the latest bit of bad news, that Riley is having knee surgery and is going to miss multiple weeks of the season, at minimum.

That’s a huge blow for Riley, who didn’t get to play very much against New England before he was hurt and had to leave the game. He’s missed many tackles this season, but he’s also shown off impressive speed and athleticism at times, like when he stayed step-for-step with Rob Gronkowski down the field and drew an offensive pass interference penalty. It’s disappointing because the coaching staff was clearly committed to giving him the reps he needed to grow, and now we don’t know when we’ll see him again.

With Riley out, the Falcons will turn to Kemal Ishmael at linebacker. I thought Ishmael played reasonably well against the Patriots, though he was part of a front seven that had a very rough time stopping the New England ground game. A bigger hitter and playmaker at heart, Ishmael should at least be able to hold down the fort minus Riley, and he may offer tackling prowess that has eluded Duke to this point. With the Falcons reeling and needing some wins, I’m hopeful Ish will fare well alongside the rest of the defense.

Here’s hoping Riley’s back as soon as possible, though it sounds like it’ll be at least a month. As a big piece of this team’s linebackers corps in the future, he needs as much as experience as he can get.