FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – At 6-foot-4, 232 pounds and a wingspan that’s just shy of 34 inches, it’s hard to miss De’Vondre Campbell when he walks in a room.
While his physical presence demands attention, he’s actually one of the more reserved players in the Falcons’ locker room.
He’s quiet but when he speaks, people listen. As Falcons coach Dan Quinn noted, “he’s real serious about his football and he comes across in a real strong way.”
“De’Vondre’s voice carries a lot of respect amongst the team,” Quinn said. “He’s always been a thoughtful guy when he has something to say and to share. The players really respect him and listen to him. It’s a new voice but with the emphasis of messaging, that’s consistent with who we are and what we do. The guys, the coaches, the players – they all have a lot of respect for Dre and his approach.”
Campbell means business, at all times. In fact, when rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun first met Campbell, he was a bit intimidated.
“When I first got here, I was a little … not scared of him, but I wanted him to like me,” Oluokun said. “He’s quieter, but when he does say something, everything is well thought out.”
A big reason why Campbell commands respect is because he has steadily improved each year he’s been in the league.
His first year, the fourth-round pick out of Minnesota endured an injury-riddled season that kept him out of a few games, but he still showed promise, recording 48 tackles. In 2017, he started all 16 games and nearly doubled that number, recording 92 tackles.
But where Campbell has shown the most growth is as a leader. And, at 1-4 with a division game against the Bucs on Sunday, the Falcons need some now more than ever.
With injuries to key starters Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen, two players who have previously called the plays on the field for the Falcons, Campbell has now taken on that role.
It’s a role that he seems to be enjoying.
“It’s pretty cool, everyone looking to you for the play-call,” Campbell. “It’s a little bit different, but I like it.”
The Falcons have given up 121 points in the last three games. The losses to New Orleans (43), Cincinnati (37) and Pittsburgh (41) all rank in the top four of points allowed in games since Quinn has become head coach in 2015.
Following the 41-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 5, Campbell said Atlanta’s defense was “going through a little funk right now.”
But as one of the leaders of the defense now, Campbell knows talking about it won’t help. The fix is pretty simple in his eyes and he’ll be right at the front, leading the charge.
“There’s no reason to get all in your feelings about it because it’s only going to get worse if we sit around and are mad and are pouting,” Campbell said. “We just have to correct the mistakes, that’s it.”