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Duke Riley is continuing to struggle, and may play himself out of a job

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We might have seen everything we need to see out of the sophomore linebacker.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Preseason is a great time for overreactions. Remember when there was growing support for starting Matt Schaub in 2016, in part due to some preseason struggles? Things worked out pretty well that season with Schaub on the bench. There’s a lot of players that absolutely do not need the snaps. We know what Julio Jones has got. Ryan is a proven player.

We had our eyes on the unproven players. Rookies and struggling players had some extra eyes on them last night. Deadrin Senat? Woah buddy, he is hurting people out there. Duke Riley stood out, but again for all the wrong reasons.

Riley’s rookie season was really a disappointment. He was Atlanta’s target in the midrounds, and Atlanta was still riding high from the home run linebacker picks of Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. Riley’s otherworldly speed resulted in him overrunning the play, missing tackles, and being easily the biggest liability on the defense. After he went down with injury, the defense stabilized.

Would another offseason help Riley meet his potential? The answer is no.

Riley played pretty deep into last night’s game, and still looks like he’s playing football for the first time. He appears to not have a shred of instinct, and is still working on diagnosing some pretty straight-forward plays. That touchdown is still perplexing. He failed to figure out what was happening, got flat-footed, got out of position and into a terrible angle, then ran like a toddler through sand.

Resident movie critic Cory Woodruff reviewed Riley’s night, and was a little too measured for my tastes.

I’ll still suggest a second or two off is a pretty big deal. He could definitely improve, but we are still seeing the same problems from Riley as last year. From my perspective, Riley did not do anything to answer criticism from last year. If he continues to give up big plays, the complaints will just let louder. Dan Quinn, who is definitely infinitely smarter than myself, did see improvement.

There is no question that Riley will play a lot in preseason. We may also see rookies Foye Oluokun and Jonathan Celestin get a heavy dose of snaps, including with the starters. While Riley floundered, both Oluokun and Celestin looked like they belonged on the field.

If Riley continues to look like he’s not ready, don’t be surprised if he ends up on the bench, if not cut completely. Luckily, the early returns on Oluokun and Celestin are promising.