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De'Vondre Campbell leaves comfort zone, steps into leading role for Falcons defense

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – During Saturday's training camp practice, Matt Ryan made a check at the line of scrimmage, changed the play and De'Vondre Campbell recognized it.

Without hesitating, the Falcons' fourth-year linebacker barked out where the play was headed to the rest of the defense. A year ago, Campbell probably wouldn't have said anything to rest of the defense in fear that he could be wrong.


"Now, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong," Campbell said. "At least I'm still communicating and everyone is on the same page."

The change in mindset occurred last season when Campbell was thrusted into a new role.

When starting middle linebacker Deion Jones went down with a foot injury in the season-opening loss to the Eagles and missed 10 games, Campbell was suddenly the signal-caller for Atlanta's defense.

Jones typically wears the green sticker on his helmet which allows him to be able to receive the calls from the coaches. Now, not only would Campbell be responsible for his individual assignments, he would also shoulder the responsibility of making sure the rest of the defense was on the same page.

As the Falcons prepare to kick off the 2019 season, that role change and having to take on new responsibilities is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for Campbell.

"It forced me to step out of my comfort zone and run everything and have everyone look at me as the leader now," Campbell said. "That was the biggest thing I had to overcome. Getting out of my comfort zone and helping other people."

Campbell said the experience has put him "light years" ahead in terms of his development.

Since arriving in Atlanta, Campbell's been a key piece of Dan Quinn's defense. His height, length and athleticism make him a unique player.

At 6-foot-4, 232-pound linebacker is not only stout in the run game, he's even more of a weapon against the pass. Campbell's speed coupled with his 33-inch wingspan allows him to cover tight ends well.

One of the main reasons he was such an intriguing draft prospect.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Campbell spent a lot of time together this offseason while on various leadership trips. After seeing the growth Campbell made in Year 3 as leader and as a player, Quinn challenged the linebacker to take it one step further.

"That's where I challenged him on; could he take on that mantle that he assumed, and stay with it, even with the return of some players?" Quinn said. "He's always been really good as somebody who is guarding tight ends and that, but could he bring the whole thing together? The more truth, the more leading we have, the stronger we'll be. I thought for him, he's right in the middle of it, and I want to make sure his development as a leader stayed consistent, even with some voices coming back."

Campbell has recorded 234 tackles, 11 passes defensed, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in his three seasons in Atlanta. The 2019 season is not only a big one for Campbell as heads into the final year of his contract, it's crucial for Atlanta's defense as a whole.

Campbell is "more cognizant" of what is expected from him and now he's more than ready to face any challenge that might come his way.

"I love pressure," Campbell said. "I feel like pressure does one or two things: You either get better from it or you fold. I don't ever fold no matter what the situation is. I like being under pressure, it's a good thing."

Coming off an ecstatic 2018 year, Falcons' linebacker De'Vondre Campbell is looking to capitalize again this upcoming season. Here are the best snap shots of the fourth year linebacker.

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