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Ricardo Allen, Vic Beasley, and Ryan Schraeder out Sunday; Damontae Kazee to start at free safety

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The Falcons will give the rookie safety his first NFL start, and will be down a few key players.

Atlanta Falcons Practice Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Falcons have a dispiritingly long injury list this week compared to any team but the Green Bay Packers. We’ve just heard from Dan Quinn that the team will be without a few key players against the Bills, including Vic Beasley (not a surprise) and Ryan Schraeder (an unfortunate surprise). The Falcons will just have to raise their game with the players taking their spots, as they did a week ago.

We know what the Falcons will do at right tackle, along the defensive line, and at third running back because we saw it a week ago. What’s new here is that with Ricardo Allen out, we’re going to see rookie Damontae Kazee get his first NFL start at free safety. Kazee comes into the NFL as one of the most popular “steals” of the 2017 draft class because of his instincts and ballhawking ability, and there was plenty of talk here and elsewhere during the offseason that he might challenge Ricardo Allen for the job sooner rather than later. That didn’t happen this offseason, but Kazee will still get at least one start under his belt this year.

You can expect Sharrod Neasman to be active again as the third safety and as a core part of special teams, and Kemal Ishmael can get run at safety if the need is dire. Make no mistake, though: This is Kazee’s show, and I’m hopeful he’ll take this opportunity and excel next to Keanu Neal, who will be making the on-field calls for the defense Sunday.

The rest won’t come as a surprise. Courtney Upshaw’s role will be filled by the likes of Jack Crawford, Adrian Clayborn, and Joe Vellano as Marquand Manuel deems fit, while Takkarist McKinley will take Vic Beasley’s snaps and hopefully make an impact on this game, as he has in every previous week to this point. Brian Hill fills in as the third running back while Terron Ward is out, but chances are he won’t get any touches against the Bills.

With the Bills without defensive end Shaq Lawson and left tackle Cordy Glenn, this game probably won’t be a picnic for either team. But hey, what do Falcons do, right?