Plenty of us were left scratching our heads when the Atlanta Falcons said their newest linebacker would play middle linebacker. He was physically closer to cornerback Jalen Collins than a typical middle linebacker at only 222 pounds. What were these coaches thinking?
According to Tim Rohan of the MMQB, they were thinking he could be the future of the position.
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. When [linebacker coach Jeff] Ulbrich met with Jones at the combine, he told him as much. “You’re going to give football a chance to survive, the essence of it,” Ulbrich said.
Few people envisioned Jones starting in his rookie season, and even fewer envisioned performances that put him in the defensive rookie of the year discussion. This is a good reason why no one pays bloggers or people on Twitter to run football teams.
Jones took some tips from Paul Worrilow and quickly became an impact starter. He grew into a leadership role, and will be expected to help get Duke Riley up to speed. Toss in De’Vondre Campbell, and the Falcons may change NFL defenses for years.