We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After taking stock of the TE position, we now move on to WR. One of the strongest position groups on the roster, the Falcons retain most of their corps from 2019 in star Julio Jones, the up-and-coming Calvin Ridley, and the surprisingly productive Russell Gage.
Today we take a closer look at third-year player Russell Gage, a former DB from LSU who finished strong in 2019 after the trade of Mohamed Sanu.
WR Russell Gage
Contract: $789K cap hit in 2020, rookie contract through 2021 ($717K APY)
Career Production: 31 games played, 4 games started | 55 receptions, 509 yards, 9.3 YPR, 1 TD
2019 Production: 16 games played, 4 games started | 49 receptions, 446 yards, 9.1 YPR, 1 TD
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 6th round (#194 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2018-present)
The Falcons placed a bizarre emphasis on WR during the 2018 NFL Draft, which was not something many of us had predicted due to the presence of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Austin Hooper. I just finished discussing first-round pick Calvin Ridley, but Atlanta also added another player late in the same draft: LSU’s Russell Gage, a former DB convert who had some impressive athletic testing at his Pro Day. At the time, it was unclear if Gage was intended to stay at WR, convert back to DB, or play primarily a special teams/returner role.
The team didn’t clarify matters much by having him play at multiple spots during training camp, but he eventually found his permanent home at WR. Gage had a quiet rookie season in 2018—which isn’t at all surprising when you’re behind the aforementioned Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper on the depth chart. But he was active for 15 games and had a role on special teams, putting up 7 tackles.
Gage began the 2019 season as the presumptive WR5, but quickly overtook Justin Hardy at WR4 and seized control of the WR3 job in Week 8 after the trade of Mohamed Sanu. Over the remainder of the season, Gage became one of Matt Ryan’s most frequent targets in the short area of the field and developed a reputation for fearless catches and absorbing big hits. He finished the season with 49 receptions for 446 yards (9.1 YPR) and 1 TD, a big jump from his almost non-existent rookie production.
As the Falcons have brought in little WR competition—forgive me if I don’t consider Laquon Treadwell anything more than a WR4—Gage seems to be locked in to the WR3 role in 2020. He’s already shown strong chemistry with Ryan and served as one of his favorite dump-off targets in 2019. Hopefully with a stronger offensive line and more aggressive playcalling, Gage can improve his pedestrian YPR numbers a little in 2020—as his speed suggests he can also have some success as a deep threat.
Projection: With the Falcons losing both Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper, there are a lot of targets up for grabs in the offense. Gage will be the recipient of at least some of those looks, and I’d expect to see a decent jump in production for the third-year WR. Expect around 65 receptions for 700 yards (10.7 YPR) and 3-5 TDs for Gage in 2020. Keep in mind that Gage only had two seasons at WR in his career prior to the NFL—he’s got a ton of potential and room to grow at the position.