With the 2020 NFL Draft and free agency period behind us, we finally have a clearer picture of what the Falcons’ roster will look like heading into the summer. There’s been a fair amount of turnover at some positions, while others have remained mostly the same. One of the positions with the most change is likely to be linebacker, where star Deion Jones returns but the other starters are pretty much up in the air.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons might deploy their LB corps in 2020, based on who they currently have on the roster.
Current Depth Chart
WILL: Foyesade Oluokun, Ahmad Thomas, Rayshawn Wilborn
MIKE: Deion Jones, LaRoy Reynolds
SAM: Mykal Walker, Edmond Robinson, Bryson Young
The Falcons starting lineup will look quite different in 2020, especially in base packages. Keep in mind, however, that Atlanta and almost all other NFL defenses play nickel (or dime) packages on the vast majority of snaps. With the loss of De’Vondre Campbell, who played the second-most snaps of any LB on the team in 2019, the team will be replacing a major contributor at both WILL and SAM.
At WILL, the new starter looks destined to be third-year player Foye Oluokun. A former sixth-round pick in 2018, Oluokun has performed admirably when called upon and has graded out as a solid starter according to PFF. His coverage is his one weak spot, but there’s hope he can continue to improve there due to his background as a safety. Former UDFA Ahmad Thomas looks to be the top backup here due to his athleticism and experience with the team. UDFA Rayshawn Wilborn has great size and transitioned from LB to safety in 2019, but has been productive at both spots. He’ll get a shot to compete in camp.
At MIKE, the starter will once again be Deion Jones, one of the stars of the Falcons’ defense and one of the most athletic LBs in the NFL. Jones had a bit of slow start returning from injury in 2019, but was playing strong football by the end of the season. Behind him will likely be veteran and special teams captain LaRoy Reynolds, who has a lot of experience with the team. Reynolds is best served in a depth role, but is generally solid when called upon.
At SAM, there are a lot of new faces. There will be a competition for the starting role, but rookie fourth-round pick Mykal Walker should be the favorite. He’s athletic, versatile, has great size, and can provide a pass rushing presence as a blitzer and from the edge. Walker can also back up all three LB positions, adding to his value. XFL standout Edmond Robinson also has an outside shot at the job. He’s also got great size, he tested out as an above-average athlete, and has several years of NFL experience. UDFA Bryson Young is another intriguing option, as he played a hybrid EDGE/LB role at Oregon. I suspect he’s got a better chance at the practice squad.
There’s always the chance the Falcons could add another veteran to the group, but for now this appears to be your LB corps heading into the summer. There are some significant question marks: can Foye continue to grow into an above-average starter, particularly in coverage? Can Mykal Walker hit the ground running and start early in his career? Will any of the UDFAs make a mark? But overall, the group is mostly solid and shouldn’t hold Atlanta’s defense back in 2020. Having a star in the middle helps in that regard.
What are your thoughts on the Falcons’ LB group? How would you deploy the current players if you were the defensive coordinator? Any free agents you’d like to add to this group?