When the Falcons cut veteran corner Robert Alford this offseason, it was with the implied understanding that Isaiah Oliver would step up to take his role as a starter on the outside. After being selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Oliver didn’t see much time on the field as a rookie. In his second year, though, all eyes are on him as he is now the starter opposite Desmond Trufant.
A rough Week 1 outing had many fans questioning if Oliver was ready, but his confidence didn’t waver. The veteran leadership in the locker room guided him through it and he moved on to prepare for the Sunday night game against the Eagles. While he didn’t have a perfect game, it was clear that Oliver was playing aggressive and with the confidence and competency fans wanted to see. He repeatedly showed his ability to tackle — something Dan Quinn has praised during his pressers this week — and no tackle stood out more than his takedown of Zach Ertz that sealed the win for the Falcons.
I knew they were coming to Ertz. Best player on the field for the offense. Quarterback likes him, good hands. I kind of knew I had to action from the jump, knew where the sticks were, sat down right at the sticks and I just came up and made the tackle and he happened to be short. - Isaiah Oliver, on his critical fourth-down tackle of Eagles TE Zach Ertz
When media spoke to Oliver after the game, it was clear that he relished the idea of the defense getting the opportunity to close out the game at the end. For a unit that was lambasted throughout 2018, closing out a hard-fought game would be a confidence booster and something they’d look to build on. It also showed that the players are seeing the fruits of what Dan Quinn has been preaching all along.
Coach Q always talks about trusting the process. That’s something that we’re doing really well this year.
While the season is still very young, Oliver is already showing improvement. He’s also showing a knack for big plays, stopping several players short of the sticks on Sunday night, including the game winning tackle at the end of the fourth quarter.
His confidence is clearly growing and if he can build on the early results we’ve seen, he could be a critical component of a defense that finally fulfills the vision Dan Quinn has had for it since coming to Atlanta.