Spirits were high in the locker room following the Atlanta Falcons’ divisional win over the Seattle Seahawks. The media gathered around rookie linebacker Deion Jones’ locker, peppering him with questions about the defensive performance, including his heads-up interception toward the end of the game.
A few lockers down, Paul Worrilow tried to get my attention.
“When do the rookie of the year awards get announced?” Worrilow asked me.
Well, those awards will be announced the night before Super Bowl LI, on the NFL Honors Awards broadcast.
“It’s got to be Deion (Jones),” Worrilow said.
Jones has made a strong case for consideration for defensive rookie of the year. The second-round draft pick out of LSU has been dominant this season, finishing 2016 with three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
He’s been spectacular in coverage, adding 11 pass deflections during the regular season. His heads-up interception off of a bobbled ball in the Falcons’ win over the Seahawks in the Divisional Round demonstrated his acute awareness and talent.
Worrilow said he’s seen Jones, and teammate De’Vondre Campbell, become more decisive over the course of the season and into the postseason.
“You could see, and I can just speak on (Campbell and Jones), how fast they play and how decisive,” Worrilow said. “The physicality, you know they’re going to bring that, but they were sharp on assignments and on the bench, communicating what they were seeing. And that’s just them putting in all that work during the week.”
Bear in mind that Worrilow was Atlanta’s starting middle linebacker before Jones was drafted as his replacement.
Worrilow was emphatic, and reiterated his point.
“Deion should be rookie of the year,” Worrilow said. “I’ve just got to put that out there. He’s killing it.”
Jones’ performance this season more than justifies consideration for defensive rookie of the year. It’s difficult to imagine the offensive rookie of the year honors going to anyone but Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott after the season the Dallas Cowboys had, and based on Jones’ development and performance, he seems like the most likely candidate for the defensive honors.
And he’s got his teammates in his corner, too.