Early Bird Report: Foye Oluokun making presence felt once again

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During their bye week and in the days leading up to their win against the Saints, the Falcons made a few tweaks to their strategy, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Among those changes was sliding Ricardo Allen to strong safety and moving Damontae Kazee from the nickel corner role to free safety, where he excelled in 2018.

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Another notable change was the inclusion of second-year linebacker Foyesade Oluokun in the game more frequently. Atlanta shifted to more of a 3-4 approach on defense for the first half of the season, using Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley as stand-up edge rushers rather than guys who put their hands in the dirt a-la a tradition defensive end. That change resulted in De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones being the Falcons’ two primary inside linebacker and left Oluokun is the odd man out.

That was not the case against the Saints, as Matt Winkeljohn wrote about in detail for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I didn’t know how much more (he’d play),” Oluokun told Winkeljohn. “I knew I’d be in base, but I didn’t know how much more base we would were going to play. ... Yeah, that was (the base). I guess maybe since that worked in the beginning, we put it in more.”

Oluokun made the most of his opportunity, leading the Falcons with eight tackles, including seven solo stops. As a rookie, Oluokun was one of the top surprises for a defense that was ravaged by injuries. Perhaps the former sixth-round pick will again get more chances to prove himself.

To read the rest of Winkeljohn’s story, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

AJC: What to make of the hopeful tone in Falcons camp?

After a 1-7 start to the 2019 season, many have already turned the page on the Falcons this year. The Falcons, themselves, have turned a page of sorts, but they are focused on the second season – as coach Dan Quinn puts it – meaning the final eight games.

Thus far, Atlanta is 1-0 in its second season, and while there is still a ways to go before we ultimately know how this year will be defined, the Falcons aren’t giving up on the chance to do something remarkable with it.

“Players really embraced the fact that this is a brand-new season, starting over,” Falcons linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said. “Everything we want is still ahead of us. At the end of the day it’s setting up the opportunity to create a story that people are going to want to listen to. A unique one: Yeah, we missed the mark in a lot of ways early on, turned it around before it was too late, came together as a team. Hopefully this will spark some momentum and confidence and we’ll do something special.”

In his column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Steve Hummer is a bit more skeptical that a great turnaround is coming for the Falcons.

“On Sunday against the Saints, the Falcons showed themselves capable of mystifying, in a good way,” he writes. “Beyond that, rally behind them at your peril. Some may look at that game as the start of something good. I found myself wondering where that kind of effort has been hiding, and why couldn’t the Falcons muster it when it might have mattered?”

To read the rest of Hummer’s column on the Falcons’ optimism, click here.

ESPN: How the Falcons found their pass rush

Atlanta’s defensive turnaround in New Orleans was remarkable. The Falcons not only sacked Drew Brees six times but they became the first team since 2005 to prevent the Saints from scoring a touchdown in the Superdome.

Before the game, a report surfaced that coach Dan Quinn had turned the play-calling duties over to linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, something that has been happening since the Arizona Cardinals game in Week 6, leaving many to point to the change in play-calling for the defensive success. During his press conference on Monday, however, Quinn wanted to reassert his belief that credit should go to the players for the performance.

“I know outside a lot has been discussed on play calling, but I think you guys have been on it for a few weeks, know there have been adjustments made over the last few weeks,” Quinn said. “It's not so unfamiliar or uncommon that a team has collaboration. We're just fortunate we're able to have some guys that can do that. I don't want to get glossed over into this. This was the players. They made some excellent communication and had a terrific performance. I don't think anything should ever distract away from that.”

Vaughn McClure wrote more about the Falcons’ defensive adjustments and players for ESPN, which you can read here.

NFL.com: Saints ‘outcoached’ in shocking loss

The Falcons’ surprising 26-9 victory against the Saints was earned in every sense of the word. Atlanta beat New Orleans in all three phases of the game, earned a season-high six sacks and established the run in a way they haven’t all year.

For the duration of Sunday’s game, one would be forgiven for not realizing which team had entered the contest with a 7-1 record. Even Saints coach Sean Payton could only tip his hat in recognition of the performance the Falcons put together.

"It's kind of one of those ... it's not a lesson, but this league is too good week-to-week where you can go in and not be focused and ready," Payton said, according to NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman. "This has always been a game that's always played with emotion and I thought they outplayed us. They outplayed us, they outcoached us and they deserve to win."

This is a win Falcons fans should savor for a while, because it was as complete a performance as any.

ESPN: Falcons look like different team in upset

All season the Falcons have searched for a game like the one they played in New Orleans. The coaches and players have steadfastly stated that they believe the preparation has been to the level needed to win on Sundays, and it certainly looked that way against the Saints. Atlanta reminded people of the type of talent it possesses on its roster, and perhaps this performance can provide a spark.

“The Falcons didn't look like the same team that started the season 1-7 and had dropped six games in a row,” ESPN’s Vaughn McClure writes of the game. “This was a team determined to silence the critics and show it had enough talent on the roster to take down the mighty Saints, even on the road.”

To read the rest of McClure’s piece from Sunday, click here.

AJC: Falcons give us Sunday to savor

There weren’t many who saw that performance coming from the Falcons, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Whether that proves to be a sign of things to come over the final seven weeks or an aberration to look back on fondly, it’s a victory that certainly is sweet. In his column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mark Bradley tried to make sense of the Falcons’ performance before ultimately arriving at the conclusion that this is a moment to just enjoy.

“If nothing else — and it’s entirely possible there won’t be much else good from these Falcons — they offered a glimpse as to why we’d believed this team would be capable of making the playoffs. Of being 2-7, Ryan said, ‘Our backs are against the wall,’ and that’s sugarcoating it. But in a building that has been a house of horrors for this annual visitor, against an opponent that loves to gig the Dirty Birds, they acted as if they owned the place. You wonder why it took nine games to play like this, but you’re glad for their sake they finally did.”

To read the rest of Bradley’s column, click here.

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