With the 2018 season mercifully in the rearview mirror, we can look back and reminisce as we wait for the NFL season to greet us once again in September.
For the few past few weeks I’ve been counting down the five best offensive players of 2018 for the Falcons. This new series will do the same thing, but focus on what was the weaker side of the ball for the Birds this year — the defense.
Devastating injuries to start the campaign weren’t overcome, as Atlanta fielded a putrid 28th-ranked defense in the NFL. Still, even throughout the struggles, contributors stuck out from the crowd, and at least gave Atlanta a chance on the defensive end.
This will be a weekly countdown of the Falcons’ five best defensive players of 2018, going in order from fifth to first. You can find No. 5 here.
Here is the fourth-best defensive player for the Atlanta Falcons from this past season
4) Foye Oluokun
Taken in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, with the 200th pick, Foyesade Oluokun wasn’t expected to be anything more than a special teams contributor in his rookie season. A string of unfortunate circumstances propelled him into a starting role at middle linebacker, however, and he more than held his own.
Deion Jones breaking his foot and being placed on injured reserve after Week 1’s matchup against Philadelphia moved Oluokun into a prominent role in the middle of the defense right from the start — a sort of baptism by fire if you will.
Oluokun ended up playing 525 snaps in his rookie year, far more than a sixth-rounder is expected to receive from any team. With those snaps, he ended up leading the team with 67 tackles and 31 run stops. Some bad did come with the good, however, as he also led the team in missed tackles with 16.
Coverage was another mixed bag for the Yale alum, as Oluokun gave up an 84.4% completion percentage when targeted (38 completed receptions against 45 total targets) — the highest on the team out of all players who faced double digit targets. But he gave up just 9.1 yards per reception — the third-lowest on the team among all players who faced double digit targets.
Oluokun was a great soldier this season and he stepped in and provided solid rotational play when called up. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the team’s best linebacker not named Deion Jones.
Just like with Takk McKinley last week, however, this is another case of Oluokun finding himself on this list almost by default, because Atlanta’s defensive players were so bad last season. Though, I can comfortably say that Oluokun completely exceeded expectations in his rookie season, based on what round he was picked in.
With another full NFL offseason under his belt and the comfort gained from starting a number of games in his rookie year, Oluokun will continue to be a relied upon contributor in Dan Quinn’s defense moving forward.