Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter spoke to the Atlanta media earlier this week on what to expect from the Falcons offense in 2020. One player Koetter really emphasized on is wide receiver, Russell Gage.
Koetter firmly believes that Gage has all the talent to have a breakout season this year.
“I think Russ is very very talented, and I think we will see a jump in his game,” Koetter said on Tuesday.
Gage was able to showcase his talent last season after the Falcons traded wideout Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots.
Gage Gets More Playing Time
After Sanu was traded, Gage filled the backup slot receiver void. He played in a total of nine games and started four of the last six games of the season.
Gage saw just eight targets and caught four passes for 44 yards before Sanu went to New England and then his production jumped drastically. In just the first game with Sanu’s absence, Gage was able to pass those marks catching seven passes for 58 yards on just nine targets.
“When Russ got more opportunities, his talent started to show up,” Koetter said. “I think part of it is his confidence grew, and as his confidence grew he got better. Just for any player that goes from a role player to at least a part-time starter, I think consistency is the next phase.”
In the nine games where he saw the field, Gage was targeted 66 times and caught 45 passes for 402 yards and a touchdown. He finished the 2019 season with four 50-plus-yard games and caught five passes in six games.
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From LSU to NFL
Gage has come a long way since Baton Rouge. The Falcons selected Gage in the sixth round in the 2018 NFL Draft. As a Tiger, Gage scooped up just 26 receptions for 347 receiving yards and he was mainly used on special teams.
Coming into the 2018 draft, Gage was projected as a seventh-round pick. NFL.com draft expert analyst, Lance Zierlein said Gage had the raw talent that would eventually help him succeed at the next level.
“While Gage may lack the elite size or production of a draftable wide receiver, he does possess the athletic ability and competitive nature to be considered as a diamond in the rough on Day 3,” Zierlein said. “Gage has the speed, toughness, and instincts on both punt and kick coverage to create some buzz in the buildings from special teams’ coaches during the run-up process to the draft. Gage’s special teams’ talent could land him on the roster, but he has some raw natural ability as a slot receiver that may bear fruit at some point.”
Gage is just scratching the surface in Atlanta and will get more opportunities this season to burst through it and shine.
The Falcons signed former Vikings wideout Laquon Treadwell in early free agency and there has been some question as to whether or not he’ll take the third spot in line.
Treadwell is a former first-round draft pick who struggled to make the transition from the college level to the NFL and the Vikings declined his fifth-year option. His NFL career so far consists of 53 career games, 65 passes for 701 yards, and two touchdowns.
Gage has a better chance at being the next man up since he and Matt Ryan already have a bond, but the Falcons are all about rotating so we’ll see what they end up doing with these two backups.