Expectations were high for cornerback Isaiah Oliver heading into the 2019 season.
Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn named Oliver a starter in the offseason after the second-round pick played in 14 games and started two games during his rookie season.
The first half of Atlanta's season didn't necessarily goes as planned for anyone, including Oliver.
"Early on in the year he was doing some things that didn't connect his feet and hands and that got cleaned up during the year," secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt said on Tuesday. The Falcons hired Whitt to be the team's new secondary coach in early January.
In the first eight games of the season, Oliver allowed a quarterback passer rating of 119.4, according to Pro Football Focus. He was targeted 45 times and allowed 30 receptions for 427 yards and three touchdowns and also committed five penalties.
After a 1-7 start, Quinn announced former wide receivers coach now defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris, would be switching over to the defensive side of the ball to work with the defensive backs specifically.
Morris was able to fix some errors in Oliver's technique and his game saw significant improvement, earning him a new nickname. Oliver was named "the blanket" because his job is to "wrap people up" and bring his opponent to the ground.
When asked what some of the technique changes Oliver made during the second half of the season were, Whitt provided further detail.
"I thought over the last eight games he did a really good job of connecting his feet and his hands in his press game," Whitt said. "He stayed more square. That gave him the ability once they got up the field to connect at the top of the routes."
Oliver committed just three penalties over the final eight games of the year and finished the season with 62 tackles. Now that he's improved, he's proven his technique is consistent, Whitt wants Oliver focused on creating more takeaways. Oliver has one interception in his two-year career with the Falcons.
"We're going to make sure we can pull the ball of people," Whitt said.
Whitt, a longtime defensive backs coach in the NFL, is an established teacher of technique. The Cleveland Browns had the No. 7 pass defense in the NFL in 2019. Prior to his time in Cleveland, Whitt spent 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers (2008-18).
The Falcons allowed 244.9 passing yards per game in 2019, which ranked 22nd among all NFL teams and No. 24 in takeaways with 20 on the year.
Before heading into the 2020 NFL year, we are going to look back at the best images from players on the active roster. Take a look at the best of cornerback Isaiah Oliver.