Foye Oluokun was one of the first late round prospects linked to the Falcons, and their man crush on the former Yale linebacker has been evident for a very long time. He came into the year looking to challenge Duke Riley for snaps, but the massive number of injuries for this defense threw a bit of a wrench in that plan, along with some early mistakes by the rookie.
Now, though, Oluokun has a chance to essentially surpass Riley and take on a prominent role in this defense. Marquand Manuel is a coach, and so he wasn’t about to say it outright, but he strongly hinted that Oluokun will again get the lion’s share of snaps next to De’Vondre Campbell at linebacker versus the New York Giants.
Manuel on Oluokun's bigger role: "If playing Foye more is how we win the game, because he is able to do certain things, that's what we're going to do."— The Ghost of Falcons' Pass Rush (@freetrain24) October 18, 2018
In the short term, this might slightly improve the defense, given that Oluokun has shown more aptitude for things like tackling and coverage than Riley to this point. Any gains the Falcons can make on defense through moves like this are welcome, and if Oluokun turns out to be a hit, the Falcons have 3-4 seasons of very affordable linebacker play from him.
The long-term implication here is worth considering, too. Kemal Ishmael is basically year-to-year with one year deals, while Riley hasn’t been able to live up the hopes the coaching staff had for him when they took him in the third round a year ago. Given that Riley also doesn’t play a lot on special teams, he may be in legitimate danger of being buried on the depth chart or not on the roster in the next year or two if improvement doesn’t happen. That would leave the Falcons looking for depth if they even re-sign De’Vondre Campbell, which is not a given at this point.
Long story short, this is a move we can all embrace, but we’ll have to see if it leads to a major shakeup of the linebacker position going forward.