Atlanta’s going to roll into this weekend set to start T.J. Green at cornerback owing to A.J. Terrell’s concussion, as well as Jalen Mayfield at left guard for the third straight week. At the very least, they could use more depth and competition at those two positions, and reinforcements may soon be on the way.
Kendall Sheffield and Josh Andrews were placed on injured reserve ahead of the season opener, and they have to remain on that list for three weeks before they’re eligible to return. Earlier this week, Arthur Smith indicated that there’s some optimism that they’ll be returning on the sooner side, potentially putting them on track to re-join the team in Week 4. If that’s not exactly making you leap out of your chair and whoop with excitement, I get that, but the Falcons clearly need all the help they can get.
When asked about the progress of Josh Andrews and Kendall Sheffield (both on IR) Arthur Smith said they both are "hopefully close."— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) September 22, 2021
We’ll start with Sheffield. With Isaiah Oliver locked into his new role and A.J. Terrell obviously serving as the team’s top option, Fabian Moreau and Kendall Sheffield figured to compete for the other outside corner role. Sheffield missed a significant chunk of the summer with his mystery injury and thus didn’t really get to compete, and he’s likely returning to a reserve role. The team held on to him for a reason, though, and at worst he’ll presumably step in and offer the Falcons a capable reserve the next time injury pops up. Whether Atlanta will push Darren Hall or T.J. Green to the practice squad remains to be seen—and may depend on how Green fares Sunday—but it’s fair to expect a healthy Sheffield to get run on special teams and work his way in if someone gets hurt.
That’s not as prominent a role as Andrews, potentially. As Aaron Freeman wrote yesterday, the Falcons have a looming decision to make with Mayfield, one that could tell us a lot about how stubborn this coaching staff will be about sticking with a player they’ve drafted. If Mayfield goes out and shows continued improvement against the Giants, the Falcons may well elect to slow roll Andrews’ return and have him start out as a backup. If that’s not what happens, though, the Falcons will have to weigh the benefits of letting Mayfield get a season of suffering under his belt or considering switching back to Andrews, the man they anointed the starter coming out of their cutdown to a 53 man roster.
There’s no guarantee Andrews will be a significant upgrade, but I don’t have a particularly hard time thinking that he’ll be a bit better than the current version of Mayfield if the Falcons do turn to him. At the very least, having that option and a player the team clearly likes to add depth at guard is far from a bad thing.
When the duo do return, there’ll be plenty of intrigue relating to roster shuffling and where they slot in to the depth chart. Me, I’m just hoping they’ll prove able to help a Falcons team that clearly needs help.