Per the Next Gen Stats, Neal made the biggest defensive impact – the difference between the yards conceded per play when a player is on the field and the yards conceded per play when that player is off the field – of any rookie last season.
“When Neal was on the field, the Falcons allowed an average of 5.7 yards per play; conversely, when Neal was off the field, Atlanta allowed 6.9 yards per play (1.2-yard differential when Neal was in/out of the game),” per NFL.com.
By tracking on-field movements, the NFL can analyze how each player covers ground. And no first-year linebacker displayed more range than Jones.
“Falcons inside linebacker Deion Jones traveled an average of 17.0 yards for every tackle he made in the 2016 season (NFL linebacker average is 16.2 yards per tackle),” according to NFL.com. “No rookie with 50 or more tackles in 2016 covered a greater distance than Jones did, on average. The next-closest rookie ILB behind Jones was Darron Lee of the Jets (16.7 yards traveled per tackle).”
Neal and Jones’ success earned them spots on the Next Gen Stats All-Rookie Team. Only the Falcons, Colts, Cowboys, Chargers and Bears had more than one player make the cut.