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Falcons place CB Isaiah Oliver, P Cameron Nizialek on IR

Atlanta loses a key defender and their punter.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Watching Isaiah Oliver and Cameron Nizialek’s injuries on Sunday, it was difficult not to be pessimistic about their respective outlooks. Both injuries did not look terrific in real-time, and both were ruled out of the game against the Washington Football Team.

Unfortunately, both players are headed to injured reserve. We have no idea how long Nizialek will be out, but per ESPN’s Mike Rothstein, Oliver is going to miss the season.

The loss of Oliver is a major blow. After Dan Quinn was fired last season, the Falcons shifted Oliver to nickel and he quietly began to thrive there, earning more recognition to kick off the 2021 season as he made some big plays and looked like one of the team’s more reliable tacklers in the secondary. Without Oliver, the Falcons are going to have to lean on some combination of Avery Williams (who took over on Sunday), fellow rookie Darren Hall, T.J. Green and Kendall Sheffield if he’s ultimately activated from injured reserve. I love Hall’s long-term potential, but there’s not a single player on that list that can offer what Oliver does today, and that’s going to be a problem for a defense that already turned in a shaky effort on Sunday.

The loss of Nizialek is no picnic, either, and injuries continue to plague the punter position this year. Sterling Hofrichter was waived with an injury designation, Dom Maggio dealt with one over the summer, and now Nizialek is set to miss at least three weeks. Dustin Colquitt will take over those duties, but is unlikely to handle kickoffs, a responsibility that will now shift back to Younghoe Koo. Colquitt has been around forever and is a steady veteran, but we’ll have to see how effectively he steps in and whether he can hold down the position as long as Nizialek is out.

In addition to signing Colquitt to the active roster, the team added defensive tackle Mike Pennel from the practice squad. Pennel is a terrific, massive run defender who figures to steal some snaps from Tyeler Davison as the Falcons look to improve their so-so run defense. I genuinely am looking forward to seeing him in action against the Jets this weekend.

Kicker Elliott Fry, who is fast becoming this season’s John Wetzel, rejoined the practice squad to take Colquitt’s spot. Fry can both kick and punt if called upon, and may well be flexed to the roster Sunday with the team’s injury history at punter looming large. Safety Shawn Williams, a Georgia alum who has played in 119 games and started 61 with the Cincinnati Bengals in his career, also joined the practice squad. With Erik Harris uncertain for the weekend, Williams may also find himself flexed to the roster to provide depth at safety, especially because Dean Pees seems unwilling to play Richie Grant.

That’s a lot of moves for a Tuesday afternoon. Let’s hope Nizialek can rejoin the team soon, and that Oliver makes a full recovery