As the regular season nears, we’re counting down the 20 most important players on the Atlanta Falcons roster. At No. 16 is rookie linebacker Deion Jones.
Entering the offseason, the Falcons had a glaring need at linebacker. They needed to find a young talent with athleticism, speed and coverage ability. The Falcons’ choice was Deion Jones, their second-round draft choice out of LSU.
While the lack of a pass rush last year was particularly concerning, the Falcons also seemed to have no answer to running backs and tight ends burning them in the middle of the field. Dan Quinn helped strengthen the run defense, but running backs were still having their way, just as receivers down the field.
The Falcons needed an immediate remedy, and they were happy to roll the dice on Jones, which NFL Spin Zone’s Joe Soriano explains:
"“Jones is expected to be the key ingredient in the antidote, which is why they have to count on him to beat out Worrilow and show that he can overcome his lack of size, strength at the point of attack, and experience to be a true every-down starter for this resurgent defense. It’s a gamble, but Falcons fans have reasons to be optimistic about Jones’s tools and Quinn’s plan to put his second-round pick’s gifts into action.”"
There’s certainly a lot to like about Jones and his potential in Atlanta. He brings an injection of speed the defense has sorely lacked in recent times, and he’s got tremendous athleticism.
Jones might not be the biggest or the strongest, and he’s not going to be a ‘thumper’ at middle linebacker anytime soon, but he is a willing tackler, works hard and has the competitive toughness scouts look for in prospects.
It may seem unfair to peg a rookie with the tag as one of the Falcons’ most important players, but due to the weakness of the position, Jones needs to offer an instant upgrade. The Falcoholic’s Charles R. McDonald wrote a really interesting piece on Jones before the Falcons drafted him, highlighting his speed and athleticism, but he raises questions over his strength.
"“The speed is clear, the brains are there, and the awareness in coverage automatically represents an upgrade from what the Falcons had in coverage last year. However, some of these plays of Deion Jones attempting to bring down even average sized players are disturbing. When Dan Quinn, Scott Pioli, and Thomas Dimitroff are considering drafting Jones they really need to ask themselves one question:How much should we really value speed?”"
Given the fact the Falcons were willing to spend a second-round pick on him, the answer is a lot.