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Could Russell Gage take over the 4th wide receiver role in 2019?

A special teams standout who could have a bit more on his plate next season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

When the Atlanta Falcons traded up to select Russell Gage in the sixth round of the draft last season, it was viewed exclusively as a move to bolster special teams with the potential of having Gage slot in as WR depth. Gage was, after all, drafted as a gunner for special teams purposes.

The Falcons could be looking at Russell Gage as the team’s fourth wide receiver in 2019. The depth chart at the position is pretty thin at the moment — Justin Hardy is currently a free agent, and Marvin Hall just signed with the Chicago Bears. Gage is currently the only WR on the roster outside of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu.

Now, that’s not to say that the team won’t bring in more competition at the position via the draft, free agency, or training camp additions. The Falcons, however, haven’t actively been linked to any WRs in free agency, and if they do go WR in the draft it’ll probably be a very late selection.

Gage hauled in six receptions on 10 targets for 63 total yards as the team’s sixth wide receiver on the depth chart in 2018. He was always going to be a work in progress at the position after totaling just 26 receptions for 347 receiving yards in four years of college ball at LSU.

The tools are there for Gage to cultivate a role as a contributing WR — he ran a 4.42 40-time at the LSU’s Pro Day last year, and recorded a 39-inch vertical jump. He’s also an option for some gadget plays and Jet Sweeps, as evidenced by the 232 rushing yards he recorded in his senior season. The LSU alum is a playmaker with the ball in his hands.

What Gage has going for him more than anything else may be his blocking. In 60 snaps of play as a WR this season, PFF gave him a 73.8 run blocking grade, which was second on the team among WRs (behind only Justin Hardy).

Gage will be given his opportunity to fight for and win the fourth WR job in training camp against the other additions Atlanta will make at the position between now and then. The fight for that WR4 job will be one of the most exciting battles at Flowery Branch come July.

Even if Russell Gage doesn’t win that battle, he still has a spot on this team as the special teams gunner he was drafted as.