With Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones unlikely to play, Taylor Gabriel will be the X-factor against the 49ers.
He stepped up and three catches for 82 yards against the Rams last week, including a 64-yard touchdown catch.
Gabriel’s speed and play-making ability is respected by the 49ers, who plan to double cover him.
“You have to try to get a good jam at the line of scrimmage,” San Francisco coach Chip Kelly said. “Our defensive staff was in Cleveland with him, so they know him and really speak very highly of him. He was a tough matchup problem for them. They had to face him in practice and knew what type of player he was.”
Gabriel has 29 catches for 504 yards (17.4 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. He also has a rushing touchdown on a jet sweep.
“He’s obviously electric in terms of his ability to make people miss in short areas,” Kelly said. “He can go from zero to top speed very quickly.”
Gabriel also caught a 76-yard touchdown pass against Philadelphia.
“You always need to have help over the top, but you also need a guy in his face to disrupt the timing of his routes,” Kelly said.
Mohamed Sanu, the team’s second-leading receiver, is expected to return.
“He worked really hard to get back,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He ran hard, so he looked good. I know he’s ready to get rolling, too.”