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Elijah Wilkinson’s window to return from IR could open this week

Atlanta’s starting left guard might be back in action after the bye, but there are no guarantees.

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Atlanta’s left guard woes have piled up. After Elijah Wilkinson went down, the Falcons turned to Colby Gossett, then to Matt Hennessy (who was injured), then to Chuma Edoga (who was injured), and then back to Gossett. The team may finally be getting some good news on that front after a carousel of injuries, at least.

Jalen Mayfield’s on his way back, the team seems hopeful that Edoga’s injury is a short-term one, and most crucially, Wilkinson’s three week practice window to return from injured reserve could begin as soon as this week. That might mean that Wilkinson, his presumed top backup before the season, and a capable reserve on the left side of the line will all be back in action after the bye.

Gossett held down the fort reasonably well against the Commanders, but getting Wilkinson back would be an upgrade given that he has graded out better than Gossett per Pro Football Focus (and Drew Dalman, but that’s a different conversation) and allowed fewer penalties and pressures per game by quite a wide margin. It’s unlikely Wilkinson will be the team’s long-term starter at the position—that’ll likely be Mayfield competing against a fresh 2022 addition, with Justin Shaffer potentially working his way into that conversation—but in the here and now he’s proven to be capable and downright nasty as a run blocker. The hope will be that the Falcons open that window this week and are able to get him back in action against the Saints.

It’s quite possible that Mayfield returns and gets some action this week, though Edoga or Gossett seem likely to actually start, and seemingly very unlikely that we actually see Wilkinson take the field this week. That means we won’t know who the starter will be for at least one more week, but it sounds like we’re edging closer to stability and familiarity.