Each day leading up to the start of training camp, we’ll look at a major issue that faces the Falcons and head coach Dan Quinn as he’s set to enter his third season with the team.
FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons are counting on the “Beasley-Jarrett Factor” to help improve their defense at key positions.
They are hoping that three rookie starters — strong safety Keanu Neal, middle linebacker Deion Jones and strongside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell — can make big leaps in their second season like Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett did last season.
Beasley went from four sacks as a rookie to leading the league in sacks with 15.5 last season. Jarrett went from reserve to playing the most snaps (630) along the defensive line.
“We hope that those guys, those rookies, those young guys, were playing as well as anybody in the NFL at the end of the year,” defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson said. “You hope they come back and come back at that level. That’s the expectation. I think their coaches, Coach (Doug Mallory) and Coach (Jeff Ulbrich) did a phenomenal job with those two you players (Keanu Neal and Deion Jones), getting them ready to play and having them be productive. Again, we just hope that we start at the level that we ended the season at and we go up from there.
“I think those guys made the jump from the beginning of the season to the middle of the season to the end of the season. They played a lot of football, more than most rookies. They were playing the whole way and then going into the playoffs and playing those games against really good competition. You hope that they make another jump this year.”
Today, we’ll look at Jones and what the speedy linebacker must do to make a Beasley-Jarrett like leap in his second season.
Jones, who was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team last season, plans to improve his communicating skills for his second season in the NFL.
“I think it’s just building from where I left off last year, my voice,” Jones said over the offseason. “Getting things set up and, set up with communications and things like that. Just locking in on those and getting better with that each day.”
Jones impressed veterans with how quickly he picked up things and how he was a whiz at diagnosing the opposition’s plays. But if he keeps that knowledge to himself, the overall unit will suffer.
“All of the calls I have to make, I know what I have to say,” Jones said. “I know the communications. I’m just trying to learn everything so I can go to a different place with it instead of just knowing what I have to say.”
The Monday Morning Quarterback blog proclaimed that Jones, because of his size and speed, is the ideal linebacker for the modern day pass-happy NFL.
They envisioned using his speed to cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game, and to race after ballcarriers, sideline to sideline, in the running game. The Falcons thought he was a perfect fit for the modern NFL, in which offenses try to spread the field and exploit mismatches. In that sense, Jones was perhaps the ideal linebacker for the modern NFL.
In addition to becoming more vocal, the Falcons want Jones to keep his weight in the range of 230 to 235 pounds. Jones weighed 222 pounds during his LSU Pro Day to run faster.
The Falcons don’t believe that adding weight would be a problem.
“I’m taking all donations,” Jones quipped. “I’m 230 right now. That’s pretty good. That’s a little heavier that I was last year.”
COUNTDOWN TO TRAINING CAMP
Countdown to Camp: Day 5 — Neal looking to make big leap
Countdown to Camp: Day 4 — Deion Jones to follow up All-Rookie season
Countdown to Camp: Day 3 — What will MVP Matt Ryan do for an encore?
Countdown to Camp: Day 2 — What makes Julio Jones so great?
Countdown to Camp: Day 1 — Did the Falcons protect the Brotherhood?
Here’s the training camp schedule:
Wednesday, July 26th — Team Reports for Camp
Thursday, July 27th — Practice: 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Friday, July 28th — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Saturday, July 29th — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Sunday, July 30th — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Monday, July 31st — Players Off
Tuesday, August 1st — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Wednesday, August 2nd — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Thursday, August 3rd —Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.
Friday, August 4th — Practice 5:05 p.m. – Gates open to the public at 4:05 p.m.
Saturday, August 5th —Players Off
Sunday, August 6th — Practice 9:45 a.m. – Gates open to the public at 8:15 a.m.
Monday, August 7th — Practice 9:30 a.m.
Tuesday, August 8th — Practice 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday, August 9th — Walkthrough
Thursday, August 10th — at Miami Dolphins – 7:00 p.m.
Friday, August 11th — Walkthrough
Saturday, August 12th — Players Off
Sunday, August 13th — Practice 9:30 a.m.
Monday, August 14th —Practice 9:30 a.m.
2017 ATLANTA FALCONS 90-MAN ROSTER ANALYSIS
THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT