FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – In just two seasons, Falcons linebacker Deion Jones has gone from being labeled "undersized" coming out of LSU to re-shaping the way NFL teams view the position.
The 6-foot-1, 221-pound linebacker has registered 244 tackles, 21 pass defenses, six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns since the Falcons drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Jones was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2017, alongside Falcons safety Keanu Neal, another draft pick from that same class.
Because of his rapid ascension in the NFL linebacker ranks, Jones earned high praise from Pro Football Focus in their recent top 25 players under 25 list. Jones earned the No. 5 spot in PFF's ranking, surrounded by some of the best young players in the league.
"Coverage defenders are becoming more and more valuable by the day, Jones entered the NFL at the perfect time," PFF's Brett Whitefield writes. "Immediately transforming the Falcons defense as a rookie, he has now become established as the premier cover linebacker in the NFL. By the numbers, Jones checks just about every box, most noticeably his 94.8 coverage grade in 2017 which was the second-highest mark for a linebacker in the PFF era. Jones isn't just great at locking down his man or zone, he has shown a serious propensity of making plays on the ball and tallied a position-leading nine pass breakups and interceptions combined in 2017."
Jones has been among the many notable players who helped turn the Falcons' defense into a top-10 unit in both total and scoring defense in 2017. The Falcons have a relatively young defense that may just now be entering its prime as a collective unit.
Earlier this offseason, Jones was asked about the type of defense he believes the Falcons can build this season and onward. "A great one," he said. "That's about it. Being feared, flying around, having a demeanor on the field and just bringing that forward every week."