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One Falcon to watch versus the Cardinals: De’Vondre Campbell

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The gifted second-year linebacker is having a fun preseason.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Saturday’s game against the Cardinals rolls around, likely giving us a longer look at the starters, there will be plenty of things worth watching. There’ll be that amazing offense, the rising defense, and the players frantically battling for jobs, as always.

There will also be De’Vondre Campbell, who is fast becoming a good enough reason to watch on his own.

Earlier this week you read about Campbell’s story, and since he was drafted, you’ve heard us say that with growth and development he could be a good starter at minimum. His preseason isn’t necessarily a bellwether of what’s to come, but it is showing his talent and ability to make big plays. In his limited opportunities thus far in August, he’s gotten an impressive interception and forced a fumble out of bounds, and despite a couple of hiccups looks drastically improved from his rookie reason already.

Unlike Deion Jones, who already looks like one of the best linebackers in the NFL, Campbell isn’t a speed demon. He’s plenty fast, but he’s slower than Jones and Duke Riley, a weakness he compensates for with his size, physicality, and overall nastiness. I don’t think he’s hit his ceiling yet, which means if Jones continues apace and Riley can grow into even a capable starter, the Falcons will have one of the best linebackers corps in the NFL once more.

With the Cardinals, you’ll want to watch Campbell because he’ll be getting more run, and because it’s a game against a solid offense, meaning it’ll likely be the stiffest test the defense has faced thus far. If Campbell can keep it up—and I expect he will—I’ll become even more bullish on his 2017 prospects.

Let’s be clear: De’Vondre Campbell will have a major role this year, so you’re not watching him to see if he can earn more playing time or claw past Duke Riley or any of that. You’re going to watch him because he’s rapidly becoming a joy to watch.