The Atlanta Falcons offensive line has gotten a significant boost ahead of Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
After missing the last five games, starting left guard Elijah Wilkinson is officially off injured reserve after fully recovering from the knee injury he suffered in Atlanta’s Week 8 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Wilkinson, 27, was originally designated to return from injured reserve on Nov. 30, and his window officially began to shrink before he was activated Saturday.
Wilkinson was a starter his first year “close” The Falcons bounced back with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers just before the bye week, but ended up being put on the shelf. He practiced with the team’s first offense on Wednesday for the first time since the injury, pointing to reclaiming his starting spot against New Orleans.
In Wilkinson’s absence, the Falcons started a number of starters at left tackle, including backup center Matt Hennessy, senior linebacker Colby Gossett and versatile backup linebacker Chuma Edoga.
Hennessey was given his first chance to start, but suffered a knee injury and was also placed on injured reserve. He is slated to return on Monday, but is clearly not ready to be officially activated. Similarly, Edoga suffered a knee injury in his lone start against the Chicago Bears. He missed two games before the bye week and is out for Sunday’s game.
So, while Gossett is slated to start if Wilkinson can’t go, the former appears primed to return to his usual backup role on the interior of the offensive line with the latter returning.
With Wilkinson officially in the lineup, the Falcons will have a regular starting five in rookie Desmond Ridder’s debut, which should give the 23-year-old a big boost in the pocket and running game.
The Falcons and Saints kick off at Caesars Superdome on Sunday at 1 p.m.