The one thing the Atlanta Falcons were hoping not to face this season was injuries, but that plan is not working out so far in 2014. The team lost Sean Weatherspoon in training camp to a torn Achilles tendon. They lost Sam Baker in the preseason. Now after the first game, they could be down two more players. Jake Matthews has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals after an ankle injury while Roddy White has been listed as probably to a knee injury. So who are the offensive performers that need to step up in their place?
Losing Matthews certainly hurts. The rookie was originally placed on the right side of the line, but Baker's injury forced him to move to the left. Now, the Falcons are hoping that Lamar Holmes can improve after Week 1's mixed performance. Gabe Carimi will also be stepping in as a likely starter. Head coach Mike Smith is not concerned about the offensive line suffering in Matthew's absence. The rookie went down in the first half against the Saints and the line still managed to keep Matt Ryan upright for the entire second half.
There is also a question mark regarding White's status. The wide receiver went down in the first half last week with a knee injury, but returned to play the entire second half. However, he has been limited in practice all week and listed on the injury report. Naturally, this causes some worry with Falcons fans considering last year White suffered ankle and hamstring issues that had the offense suffering as a result. However, the Falcons are better equipped to handle receiver injuries this season and much of that is because of Devin Hester who is ready for the world to see him as more than a punt returner.
Hester has become a breakout star after his strong Week 1 performance. The Falcons were determined to use him as a wide receiver and not just on special teams and so far Hester is delivering.
"It was not the least bit surprising," Smith said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We sat down with him and had a very frank conversation, what our thoughts were and what we wanted him to bring to the table. He told us he was not just a return man, he was a wide receiver, too, and one who could help us. He told he would come here to compete for playing time in the wide receiver group."
According to White, the Falcons is offense can be unstoppable thanks to Hester joining a receiving corps that consists also of leading receiver Julio Jones and Harry Douglas with Levine Toilolo taking over at the tight end spot. White told the media that Atlanta has the goal of scoring at least 30 points every game.
"That's our goal," White said, via ESPN.com. "From the start of the offseason through training camp, we always told ourselves we have to score 30 a game. That's what we want to do. It's hard to score 30 in the NFL, I'm trying to tell you. I mean, we've got the personnel to do it. We've got to go out there and execute. We can't get off to slow starts. And we can't come out the second half being slow. You've got to go through quarters and be consistent in putting up points. If we can do that on a week-to-week basis, we've got a chance."