Fans in Atlanta know just how special of a linebacker Deion Jones has been for the Falcons during his first four NFL seasons, but he remains somewhat overlooked by national media outlets.
That isn't the case with Pro Football Focus, however, and the site's analytics and evaluators have long been impressed with Jones's ability. He's a large reason why PFF deemed the Falcons to have the seventh-best linebacker unit entering the season, and they have an even higher estimation of Jones, himself.
PFF writer Ben Linsey ranked Jones fifth among all NFL linebackers heading into the 2020 season, a spot he earns on the strength of his coverage ability.
"There is an argument to be made that Jones is the best coverage linebacker in the NFL," Linsey writes. "His 92.1 coverage grade since getting drafted in 2016 trails only Kuechly and David among qualifying linebackers, and despite missing much of the 2018 season, Jones' 26 forced incompletions are tied for second-most at the position over that four-year stretch. Atlanta needs several of the young cornerbacks they've added to step up in order to see meaningful improvement in their team coverage, but the impact that Jones has over the middle of the field shouldn't be overlooked."
Jones's rare athleticism has been on display so far in AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, and he's made a number of plays that would be beyond the ability of most linebackers across the league. His presence will be more important than ever in 2020 for a defense that needs to take a step forward with some new players taking on key roles.
No longer will Jones have De'Vondre Campbell standing alongside him, instead, the Falcons seem set to have Foye Oluokun enter the starting lineup and lean on rookie Mykal Walker and veterans Deone Bucannon and LaRoy Reynolds in supporting roles. More than ever, Jones will be the leader of this group, and he'll have to play a central role for a coverage unit that struggled last season.