Pick Six: Jeff Heath could be crucial to neutralizing Falcons offense

From Red and Black to Silver and Black

Despite the two former Falcons still getting acclimated to the team, there's a slight chance Beasley might see some snaps against his former team this Sunday. While Beasley has been active on the practice squad this week, McKinley was placed on injury reserve Friday afternoon, as he's still battling a groin injury suffered earlier this season. Despite what their status is going into Sunday, Coach Jon Gruden has big plans for both of them moving forward.

"I don't want to say that Vic is going to be ready to go this week, but we are going to keep looking at him," said Coach Gruden. "He's on the practice squad. We are going to try to teach him our defense and bring him up to speed. Hopefully he can make a contribution soon.

"Takk McKinley will not be on the trip this week, but he is a big part of our plans for the future. I just don't know how far in the immediate future that is."

Jeff Heath the ballhawk

With the explosive offense the Atlanta Falcons possess, Jeff Heath could be expected to come up big once again in Atlanta.

Heath currently leads the team in interceptions (3) and has been crucial for the Raiders with Lamarcus Joyner (COVID-19/Reserve) missing action. Julio Jones (hamstring) and Calvin Ridley (foot) may both be questionable for Sunday's game, but no matter who lines up at receiver, Heath & Co. will be greatly needed to neutralize Matt Ryan this Sunday.

"Matt Ryan gets them in and out of good plays at the line of scrimmage, and they have good skill guys on the outside including their tight ends," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to the media Thursday. "They have three or four very good receivers, guys that can do a lot of different things – both run after the catch. They have some gadget plays there that they will use some of these guys with. So, they have a full complement of guys that will be a challenge for us Sunday."

Raiders front seven back on track

The Raiders pass rush and run defense is poised to be back at full force after having some key pieces missing against the Chiefs.

With the absence of Cory Littleton (COVID-19/Reserve), the defense had more difficulty containing the run attack of the Chiefs in Allegiant Stadium last Sunday than they did in their Week 5 win in Arrowhead. Several defensive linemen and linebackers missed practice after close-contact tracing, which only added to the miscues of the front seven that Coach Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther worked hard to tweak the past couple of weeks.

With Littleton returning to practice this week, the front seven is looking to reload after the Chiefs loss.

Learning experience for Johnathan Abram

Johnathan Abram is on the path to becoming an elite safety in this league, but he's still on a learning curve.

The second-year-safety who missed 15 games of his rookie season has been a heat-seeking missile this year for the Silver and Black. He currently leads the team in tackles with 57, ten of those coming in last Sunday's game against the Chiefs. Despite his productive performance, Abram caught criticism for blowing his coverage on the Chiefs last drive that set up a wide-open touchdown for tight end Travis Kelce.

The young safety, who's still essentially a rookie in terms of games played, acknowledged that he took the play to heart and it taught him a great lesson moving forward as he's about to face the Falcons.

"The one thing I learned from it was that you can do your job the entire game, and the one play you don't do your job, it shows up," Abram said. "It just happened to show up at a critical moment in the game."

Next man up in Atlanta's backfield

The Falcons have ruled out their star running back Todd Gurley for Sunday's game.

The All-Pro running back has been having a solid year with the Falcons after leaving the Los Angeles Rams this past offseason. The former Georgia running back currently has 610 rushing yards and nine touchdowns this season.

With Gurley being ruled out, the Raiders will need to turn their attention to his backup, Brian Hill. In his third season with Atlanta, Hill has proven to be reliable receiver out of the backfield for Matt Ryan and a capable change-of-pace back for Gurley this season.

Cle's status still in the air

Clelin Ferrell returned to team headquarters this week after testing positive of COVID-19 and missing Sunday's game against the Chiefs.

Ferrell has been impressive this season in stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, and his presence was definitely missed by the defense. Though Ferrell has returned to practice, his status for Sunday's game in Atlanta is still unclear and being monitored closely.

"Haven't seen him in two weeks, so we're going to do the right thing here," said Coach Gruden. "We'll probably make that decision on the airplane, but Chris Smith deserves to play more. We got to find the right nucleus of guys that can get to the quarterback and we'll visit on the airplane. But it's good to have Cle in the building. His status for this game is very much up in the air."

The Raiders get one last practice in at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center before heading to Atlanta for their Week 12 matchup against the Falcons.

Related Content

Latest Content