Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones’ foot injury and subsequent IR stint leave a huge hole in the Falcons defense. The Falcons are looking to rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun to help fill that hole.
Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones is considered one of the best linebackers in the league. Jones has produced back-to-back seasons of over 100 tackles, including 138 in 2017. He also accumulated 20 passes defended and six interceptions in his first two seasons. Jones particularly good in pass coverage, where he ranked number one overall in 2017 among linebackers by PFF.
Deion Jones was the very best linebacker in the NFL in coverage in 2017! pic.twitter.com/e86fMQvSfP
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 20, 2018
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 13, 2018
Jones injured his foot against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 1 of the 2018 season. Despite coming back into the game, the Falcons placed Jones on injured reserve. This was a huge blow to the Falcons offense, especially when coupled with the loss of starting safety Keanu Neal to a torn ACL.
The loss of the two has been evident through week three of the season. The Falcons have given up the seventh-most passing yards and eighth-most points through the first three weeks of 2018. They gave up the 12th-fewest passing yards and eighth-fewest points in 2017. The Falcons defense also ranks 25th against the pass in DVOA.
To help fill the hole left by Jones, the Falcons will look to their young linebackers. Second-year linebacker Duke Riley will get the first shot to fill in for Jones. Riley, however, struggled with missed tackles in his rookie season, eventually losing his job at weakside linebacker. Nipping at Riley’s heals is rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun, who will take over if Riley continues to struggle.
Oluokun was one of the new age linebackers who played safety in college. He had four relatively productive seasons at Yale. In his four healthy seasons, Oluokuno produced 50 or more tackles. He also accumulated 13.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, four interceptions, and 18 passes defended. Oluokun was given a medical red-shirt in his junior year due to only playing three games because of injury.
Oluokun is an athletic freak. He ranks in the 93rd percentile in the 40-yard dash, 86th in speed score, 81st in burst score, and 90th in agility score. His athletic numbers are good for a wide receiver, let alone a linebacker. Oluokun used that athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs. He also had the power to move tight ends off of their routes. His speed also allowed him to shoot gaps, blow up plays, and deliver crushing tackles.
One benefit to monitoring prospect visits is coming across names the NFL is showing interest in that I haven’t watched.
Today that is Yale LB/S Foye Oluokun. Lines up all over the field. Aggressive player. pic.twitter.com/sWMztz7BAW
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 26, 2018
Oluokun was taken with the 200th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He showed his pass defense chops early in OTAs with an interception of backup quarterback Matt Schaub. He was also given praise early on in the offseason for his work on special teams in OTAs.
The Falcons gave Oluokun first-team reps early on in training camp, swapping him with Riley. Head coach Dan Quinn also had good things to say about Oluokun early on. Oluokun continued to show his abilities against the pass with an interception in 11 on 11 drills.
Foyesade Oluokun with an INT off a tip in 11 on 11. Rook continues to impress. Good awareness
— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) August 6, 2018
In his first NFL game action against the New York Jets in preseason week 1, Oluokun did extremely well. PFF gave Oluokun the highest grade for the Falcons defense. Meanwhile, Riley continued to struggle.
Top graded #Falcons defenders vs. first 2 Jets QBs (first 22 plays):
Foye Oluokun – 88.6
Jack Crawford – 69.5
Isaiah Oliver – 68.4
*minimum 8 snaps
— PFF ATL Falcons (@PFF_Falcons) August 15, 2018
Oluokun continued to play well through the preseason, getting the start in week 2 of the preseason against the Chiefs due to injuries to Jones and Riley. Unfortunately, Oluokun injured his ankle in the Falcons week 3 preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He missed the rest of the preseason.
NFL Regular Season
Entering week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Oluokun was listed as a back-up to De’Vondre Campbell. Oluokun only played in 4 of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in week 1. Despite this, Oluokun still made a solo tackle.
Because of Jones’ injury, Oluokun was given a much higher snap share in week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. He played in 15 snaps, accounting for four tackles, two solo. This is highly efficient production.
The following week against the New Orleans Saints, Oluokun received even more snaps. In his 19 snaps, Oluokun had four solo tackles. While he was picked on a bit in pass coverage, Oluokun still demonstrated his ability to stick with NFL tight ends.
It only took two quarters for Foye Oluokun to be on the receiving end of a picture-perfect throw down the seam from Drew Brees. Many Falcon linebackers have endured this over the past decade. Not much else the inexperienced LB can do here. pic.twitter.com/VDehtKqHVh
— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) September 27, 2018
The loss of middle linebacker Deion Jones to a foot injury has left a huge hole in the middle of the Atlanta Falcons defense. It has been fairly obvious through week 3 of the 2018 season with how the Falcons defense has played. The Falcons are looking to second-year linebacker Duke Riley and rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun to help fill that hole.
Oluokun is a former college safety and athletic freak who has shown the ability to do well in coverage in the NFL. Currently, Riley is the starter in Jones’ absence. But if Riley’s previous struggles crop up, Oluokun has a chance to be an impact starting linebacker.
Gary Van Dyke, the IDP Tipster (@HBogart27) already wrote about Oluokun’s opportunity. If you are in deeper/dynasty IDP leagues and have not stashed Oluokun already, you need to. Oluokun fits perfectly in head coach Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme. As Oluokun progresses, he will garner more snaps, and eventual the opportunity to start for the Falcons, if not this year, then next.