No matter how bleak a situation is, there is usually something positive that comes out of it. It may consist of a career-changing learning experience or shining moment. While the Falcons aren’t exactly learning from their previous shortcomings, they possess outstanding individual talent, players who can make exceptional plays on both sides of the ball. That’s what makes them fascinating to watch on a weekly basis. Even during a brutal season filled with disappointment, there are still plenty of exciting players on the active roster.
In this new feature, I’ll be looking at one of the most memorable plays from their previous game. It will be left out of my weekly GIF review for the purpose of further assessment on why it should be considered as a meaningful moment. Despite losing their previous five games, the Falcons are producing noteworthy positive plays that deserve more recognition.
The Falcons are playing a Cover 3 shell in their modified 3-4 look. Dan Quinn’s scheme has been criticized for being too bland. Between not switching up coverages often and calling more blitzes, quarterbacks rarely get confused when they face Atlanta. Switching to a 3-4 look forces the quarterback to reassess their protection. Instead of bringing five, they only rush three by dropping Brooks Reed and Bruce Irvin into coverage. This decision is designed to force the quarterback into making a tight window throw or checking it down.
Similar to Drew Brees and Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t fazed by the different look. He was able to stand in the pocket for an extended period of time and find an open receiver downfield. On this rare occasion, the Falcons weren’t punished for rushing three. With Reed and Irvin as the curl-flat defenders, it leaves Foye Oluokun and Deion Jones to defend the middle of the field. Oluokun quickly abandons his assignment when recognizing Jimmy Graham is roaming down the seam without a defender in sight.
Due to Damontae Kazee shifting to the left and Desmond Trufant playing bail, it leaves Oluokun as the only defender remotely close to Graham. The rookie linebacker does struggle at diagnosing routes. Whether it’s from a lack of experience or not facing top-tier competition in college, this is one of his few flaws. Oluokun is starting to prove he can fix those deficiencies as he becomes a legitimate three-down linebacker.
Although he is slightly fortunate Rodgers doesn’t spot Graham earlier, this is an outstanding play. Linebackers aren’t supposed to run 50 yards downfield in coverage. They should be chasing down running backs underneath or covering tight ends on intermediate routes. For Oluokun to spot a coverage-busting play and run downfield to break up a certain touchdown shows his capabilities as an all-around player.
He could have easily lost his composure and collided into Graham for what would have been a massive penalty. Instead, he doesn’t get overly physical with Graham, uses his hands well to obtain leverage, and takes a fantastic angle to break up the pass.
Plays like this show why the coaching staff is comfortable with Oluokun playing alongside Jones and De’Vondre Campbell in base and occasionally with Jones in nickel.