Injuries are piling up at safety for the Falcons, forcing the coaching staff to get creative with their personnel.
Fortunately, the Falcons value versatility on defense, particularly at the second and third levels. This allows them to adjust a player's role in a pinch, trusting that the athleticism is there to handle different assignments.
It appears starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are set to return to action after missing previous games due to injuries, but the depth at the position took a hit with Damontae Kazee heading to injured reserve and Jaylinn Hawkins getting a concussion against the Packers. If more injuries were to occur at safety on Sunday against Carolina, the Falcons may have to once again revert to their backup plan.
"Yeah, we did it a little in the game with Foye [Oluokun]," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "We played him some into that spot. We'll do that from time to time based on a package, but hopefully we can hold on that. We've done it before. We did it some last year with DeVondre [Campbell] and Foye, and we did Foye in a similar role this year. We're ready to do that."
The Falcons hope they don't have to turn to him in that role too often, as they would like to see their starting safeties remain healthy moving forward. There is a comfort level in using Oluokun in that role, however, as he played safety during his college career at Yale and has the athletic traits that a safety must possess.
For his part, Oluokun says, in the Falcons' system, his role doesn't change too much when he transitions from linebacker to safety and that returning to safety is like "riding a bike." He may have to be focused on deeper drops than he usually would, but things remain the same for the most part. Oluokun has emerged as a playmaker when he's been on the field for Atlanta, regardless of his role.
The Atlanta Falcons head to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers in Week 8 of the 2020 NFL season. Take a look back some of the history of the matchup at Carolina.