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Why moving Foye Oluokun to the MIKE is good for the defense

New moves for the defense make me smile.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Foye Oluokun, a sixth round pick out of Yale in the 2018 draft, has shown vast improvement and has expanded his role progressively on the defense since his rookie year. Last season was his best season yet, as he put up 77 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions, and has proven to be a very athletic, sideline to sideline player. The fact that he’s a good tackler and very intelligent when it comes to making proper reads on the field makes him an asset to this defense.

I write all that to make it clear that it’s no surprise to me that new defensive coordinator Dean Pees and head coach Arthur Smith are entrusting Oluokun to take over the MIKE role and assume those important responsibilities. The MIKE linebacker, the “signal caller” of the defense, is the most important role on the defense from a leadership standpoint that can also make plays in the run game and in coverage. That being stated, what does this move mean for the defense?

Oluokun and the team benefit

This, in my opinion, is one of the best moves for the team for multiple reasons. Giving Foye this responsibility is not a knock on Deion Jones, who has handled these duties in the past, by any means. Jones has actually played effectively at the MIKE when given the responsibility. However, this move actually benefits both players.

Oluokun has proven to be a solid tackler and coverage LB, but even the previous staff stated that he catches on incredibly fast, is very intelligent (as you’d expect from a Yale graduate) and hardly ever makes the same mistake twice. Due to those factors and his athleticism, in my opinion, he’s better suited for the MIKE. For Debo, given his ball skills, speed, coverage skills, playmaking ability and his ability as a blitzing LB, putting him at the WILL without the leadership responsibility and just letting him wreak havoc should bring his play to another level. He did quite a bit of damage last year as a pass rusher and can do more with increased opportunities.

Dean Pees and his defensive staff have certainly been making some personnel and player responsibility changes since being here, and they all certainly make sense. This linebacker corps has the capability to be a very solid one, certainly. Coach Pees is obviously seeing the same kind of talent in Oluokun that some of us have and fully has faith that he can take on this responsibility. Of course time will tell on whether this move completely pans out on the field, but in my eyes, it certainly fits what the team needs and what Oluokun offers, and is a step in the right direction for the defense.