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Falcons consider all options with CB Oliver lost for season

October 6, 2021 GMT
Atlanta Falcons cornerback Avery Williams (35) runs the ball against New York Giants defensive back Keion Crossen (31) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Atlanta Falcons cornerback Avery Williams (35) runs the ball against New York Giants defensive back Keion Crossen (31) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Atlanta Falcons cornerback Avery Williams (35) runs the ball against New York Giants defensive back Keion Crossen (31) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons must reconfigure their secondary this week after losing nickel back Isaiah Oliver to a season-ending knee injury.

Also, starting safety Erik Harris’ status for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets in London is uncertain because of a calf injury that forced him out of last week’s 34-30 loss to Washington.

The Falcons placed Oliver on injured reserve on Tuesday. On Wednesday, coach Arthur Smith confirmed Oliver would miss the remainder of the season. He also said injured players such as Harris and defensive tackle Marlon Davidson (ankle) might not make the trip to London.

“If there’s a chance they’ll play, we’ll take them with us,” Smith said.

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The injuries in the secondary could force a dramatic reshuffling of the depth chart. There could be more significant roles for rookies Avery Williams, who played behind Oliver against Washington, and Richie Grant.

“Sure, all options are on the table,” Smith said, adding cornerback Kendall Sheffield has experience in the nickel role.

Smith said Williams “has done a good job,” but has room to improve.

“Certainly, like all of us, there are play-calls I want back,” Smith said. “There are certain plays I’m sure he wants back. He’s a rookie. He’s very smart, and he’s got a lot of smart football instincts.”

Sheffield (undisclosed) and left guard Josh Andrews (hand) could come off injured reserve this week. Smith said both would travel to London.

Smith said Oliver’s injury was especially painful as the cornerback had found a home in the nickel role.

“I can’t say enough good things about him as a pro, as a teammate,” Smith said. “He’s one of the guys I really enjoyed. He really bought in and was having a good year. It’s unfortunate.”

Oliver had nine tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery through four games before hurting his knee in the first half.

Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke passed for 290 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the final 3:52, to beat the Falcons (1-3). Atlanta led 30-22 early in the final period.

Another player who could move up in the secondary is second-year safety Jaylinn Hawkins. The Falcons signed safety Shawn Williams to the practice squad on Tuesday.

“We can have multiple guys step up and play different roles,” Smith said. “We feel good about the guys that we’ve got here.”

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