Editor's note: This is the seventh story in a 10-part series counting down the top 10 Atlanta Falcons players our writers believe are most likely to have a breakout season in 2020. The definition of breakout, for the purpose of this list, is a player who shows sudden significant improvement.
Following the 2019 season, the Falcons lost starting linebacker De'Vondre Campbell to free agency. While the team surely would have liked to reach an agreement with their leading tackler the past two seasons, they have a player on their roster primed to take over Campbell's starting spot.
In his first two seasons in Atlanta, Foye Oluokun has shown enough growth and on-field capability to be Campbell's successor in the starting lineup. A sixth-round draft pick in 2018, Campbell finished second on the team in tackles as a rookie despite only starting seven games. The former college safety has developed into a promising NFL linebacker with great size and speed.
With a starting role seemingly on the horizon, Oluokun is poised for a breakout season in 2020.
TOP 10 BREAKOUT SEASON COUNTDOWN
Body of work
As previously mentioned, Oluokun finished his first NFL season with 91 tackles, the second-most on the team. He started seven games after Deion Jones sustained a foot injury early in the year, learning on the fly while making fewer mistakes than would be expected.
With Jones back and healthy in 2019, Oluokun's snap totals on defense sharply decreased early in the year. Although the team did give him a series or two in most of the games before the bye week, it was clearly tough for Oluokun to find a role or a rhythm. That changed after the bye week, when he became a more regular part of the rotation.
Oluokun finished his second season with 56 tackles, but 45 of those stops came during the final eight games of the year. He improved in a number of more specified metrics as well, which also provides reason to believe he's ready for a starting role. After missing 11.7 percent of his tackle attempts as a rookie, Oluokun missed just 6.1 percent of such attempts last year. He also allowed just 98 yards after the catch in 2019, down from 188 in 2018.
Poised for a breakout
Yes, increased opportunity is one reason why a breakout year for Oluokun seems likely, but it's not the only reason. Watching him on a play-by-play basis, he's comfortable as both a communicator and a decision-maker, two incredibly important qualities for a linebacker.
One thing that coaches have raved about when it comes to Oluokun is his intelligence, and he's shown a high football IQ on the field. There are some small things that he can continue to iron out, as there are with virtually every player, but he's already come a long way since entering the NFL and that should continue as he gains more experience.
It was Campbell's ability to cover tight ends that made him such a valuable player in Atlanta, and although Oluokun may not have exactly the same combination of length and speed, he shouldn't be a liability in that area. His short-area speed will also benefit him in zone coverage, as will his ability to diagnose and react.
Oluokun has always been one whose made the most of what he's gotten. In 2020, he could find more on his plate than ever before. If the past is any indication, that increased workload will lead to a breakout year on a defense that needs one.
We are counting down the top 10 Falcons players our writers believe are most likely to have a breakout season in 2020. The definition of breakout, for the purpose of this list, is a player who shows sudden significant improvement.