Throughout the past twenty seasons, the Atlanta Falcons have had several standout linebackers manning the middle ground of their defense. Whether it's been sturdy players such as Keith Brooking or athletic marvels like Deion Jones, the team has managed to find a number of contributors.
Previous rankings for the team include the best specialists, the five best offensive linemen, the three best tight ends, the five best wide receivers, and the five best running backs of the past twenty seasons. This article takes a more wide-range approach when looking at the linebackers rather than ranking them like the features mentioned above. We'll end the series by focusing on the defensive backs who have made an impact on the Atlanta Falcons' defense.
Keith Brooking – After being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1998, Keith Brooking is arguably the second-best linebacker in team history behind Jessie Tuggle. Although we’re only examining a portion of the career to fit the 20-season timeline, his impact was still significant.
He made 96 starts in that timeframe, recorded 100+ tackles in each of these seasons, forced 9 turnovers, and received an All-Pro honor and multiple Pro Bowl recognitions. He also helped the team reach the playoffs in 2004 and 2008 before his career ended elsewhere. His impact was felt during every game he played, and he should be considered one of the best defenders in team history.
Deion Jones – The Atlanta Falcons drafted Deion Jones in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and he made an immediate impact in his rookie season. He started 13 games, recorded 100+ tackles, had three interceptions, and deflected 11 passes. The next season, he started every game, recorded 138 tackles, recorded three more interceptions, and was named to the Pro Bowl.
Jones played four more seasons with the Falcons and recorded 100+ tackles in 2019, 2020, and 2021 while also adding numerous sacks, forcing five turnovers, and even scoring three defensive touchdowns for Atlanta. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2022, but his play during his tenure with the Atlanta Falcons earns him a spot on this list.
Kroy Biermann - Kroy Biermann was an underrated member of the Atlanta Falcons and his impact is a bit hard to fully gauge due to his rotational role on the defensive line and the numerous positions the team utilized him at.
Throughout his time with the team, Biermann only made 37 starts but still played in 114 games during his eight seasons in Atlanta. He produced 23.5 sacks, and 331 tackles, and helped the Falcons reach the playoffs four times during his career.
Curtis Lofton – Curtis Lofton is another 2nd round success story at the linebacker position for the Atlanta Falcons. After being drafted by the team in 2008, he played in 16 games as a rookie, and recorded 94 tackles. Throughout the next three seasons in Atlanta, he played in every game and had three straight seasons with 100+ tackles.
Lofton also made significant plays for the Atlanta defense by forcing seven fumbles, snagging three interceptions, and scoring a touchdown during his last season with the team. Falcons’ fans might have a sour taste in their mouths after Lofton left the team to join the rival New Orleans Saints, but he was definitely an important part of the defense during his four seasons in Atlanta.
Stephen Nicholas – Nicholas was never a superstar during his time with the Atlanta Falcons, but he was a steady player who had several good seasons with the team. During the 2009 season, he recorded 80 sacks, 3 sacks, and forced a fumble. The following season saw Nicholas rack up 78 tackles, an interception, and he played in 16 games with the team.
His best season for the team came in 2012 when he recorded 97 tackles, started 15 games, caused two turnovers, and added two sacks. Overall, Nicholas played in 101 games with the team over his seven seasons and recorded almost 400 tackles before his retirement.
Foyesade Oluokun – After being selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Oluokun is a true success story for the Atlanta Falcons. He played in every game during his rookie season and racked up 91 tackles, forced a fumble, and made seven starts for the team.
Although his second season was a letdown, his 2020 and 2021 seasons were significant leaps. He recorded 192 tackles in 2021 along with six pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and led the league in tackles. He ended up leaving Atlanta to join the Jacksonville Jaguars the following year, but his contributions to Atlanta’s defense after being such a late-round selection showcase his work ethic and drive to succeed in the NFL.
De’Vondre Campbell – Campbell was selected the same year as Deion Jones, and although his impact wasn’t as significant, he was still an important part of the Atlanta Falcons defense during his four seasons with the team.
Campbell only started ten games during his rookie season, but after that, he played in 48 games and helped Atlanta reach the playoffs twice during his tenure with the team. He started 15 games in the 2019 season and recorded 129 tackles, two interceptions, forced three fumbles, and two sacks. He left to join the Arizona Cardinals for one season after that but has found a new home in Green Bay where he recently signed a long-term extension.