Duke Riley got hurt way back in the game against the Patriots in Week 7, and he missed most of that game and all of the four following it. In his absence, the Falcons tried Kemal Ishmael and Vic Beasley at linebacker, with mostly improved results.
That’s why Riley will be returning to an uncertain role this week after recuperating from surgery, but I imagine he’ll just be glad to be back. His speed should be helpful against a Tampa Bay offense that has plenty of playmakers, and he may find his way into playing time with a shaky special teams unit before long.
Duke Riley back this week— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) November 24, 2017
The big question is whether he’ll supplant Vic Beasley at linebacker. The Falcons have given Beasley more run there of late with pretty good results, and Adrian Clayborn and Takk McKinley have done fine work with increased snaps at defensive end. There just isn’t any obvious place for Riley to play, though I’d expect him to leapfrog the likes of Kemal Ishmael and Sean Weatherspoon as a reserve pretty quickly.
Riley’s long-term outlook is still good—Dan Quinn loves his athletes at linebacker—but I wouldn’t expect him to get much run until later in the year, if not 2018. We’ll see if Quinn has different plans on Sunday.