Falcons running back Steven Jackson was injured in the second game of the season, and Atlanta is hoping he will be able to return this weekend and help the team turn its season around. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — The bye week came at a good time for the Falcons, who needed the break to assess the wreckage of their first five games.
The defending NFC South champs are off to a surprising 1-4 start and have been gouged by injuries, the latest a season-ending ankle injury to wide receiver Julio Jones, who was set to have surgery on Monday.
In addition to Jones, running back Steven Jackson (hamstring), wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring, high right ankle sprain), linebacker Akeem Dent (right ankle sprain) and left tackle Sam Baker (knee) are battling injuries.
Also, Jones joined eight players already on injured reserve including linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (right foot), defensive end Kroy Biermann (Achilles surgery) and right tackle Mike Johnson (ankle). Weatherspon was placed on the designated to return list.
Fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder), cornerback Saeed Lee (knee), tight end Adam Nissley (knee), quarterback Sean Renfree (upper body) and tight end Andrew Szczerba (undisclosed) are on the team’s injured reserve list.
The Falcons are hopeful that Jackson returns to the lineup. He was injured in the second game of the season on Sept. 15 against the St. Louis Rams.
“We want to get Steven back as quickly as we can,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He’s continuing to work with our athletic performance group on the side. He hasn’t been back on the field. We’ll see where he is on Tuesday when we get back together. We need to get Steven back as quickly as we can.”
With White slowed and Jackson out, Jones was carrying the offense as he accounted for more than a quarter of the pass receiving yardages.
If the Falcons get Jackson back, they would turn to Harry Douglas, Kevin Cone and Drew Davis to help in the passing game. The Falcons also signed Brian Robiskie, a former second-round pick in 2009, who has washed out of the league. He’s the son of Falcons assistant head coach/receivers Terry Robiskie.
The younger Robiskie knows the offense and the verbiage already from his time in Jacksonville with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in the 2011 season.
Smith talked to the elder Robiskie about coaching his son.
“I know that father and son always speak and I’m sure they kind of speak the same language,” Smith said. “When they talk, they talk in the verbiage that Terry has probably talked to him all of his life, so I think it will help.”
Douglas may lose his punt returning duties in the shakeup. Cornerback Robert Alford is the No. 2 returner and Robert McClain has also been catching punts.
The Falcons could use more double-tight end formations with the development of backup rookie Levine Toilolo.
“He’s coming along like we anticipated,” Smith said. “He’s going to be a very good threat, especially in the red zone. But yes, (double tight ends) would be an option for us as well.”
In addition to trying to patch together a receiving corps, the Falcons must also cut down their penalties and figure out how to get off the field on third down.
“I want us to get some things corrected in all three phrases,” Smith said. “We’ve been very close in the first five games … We have to be more consistent and we have to get some guys healthy.”