How Deion Jones uses tricks of the trade to master new Falcons schemes

Star linebacker details how he learns a new football language as players use OTAs to get Arthur Smith’s and Dean Pees’ systems down cold

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones #45 looks on during organized team activities in Phase III of the Atlanta Falcons offseason program on May 25, 2021.

Falcons players are receiving a crash course during this offseason program. Let's call it Schematics 101, with professors Arthur Smith and Dean Pees.

They meet several times throughout the spring and summer, with big tests coming when games actually count. They're learning where to go and when during ongoing OTA sessions, how to respond in a flash when variables come into play.

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That's no easy task in any instance, considering how quickly you have to read, react and execute at this level.

It's still only part of this fast-paced master class.

Falcons players are also learning a brand-new language. Offensive and defensive schemes have unique terminology, even when using concepts similar to other systems. Memorizing the dictionary and applying new vocabulary is as important as anything, because being a step slow gets you beat.

Deion Jones, in particular, has to be a quick study. It's mandatory for an interior linebacker with a green dot on his helmet, someone required to relay calls in the huddle and make checks before the snap to get teammates on the same page.

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"I'm just soaking it all in," Jones said after Wednesday's voluntary OTA session. "[Defensive coordinator Dean Pees] has a lot of moving pieces, a lot of different coverages and fronts that we have to digest. There's new verbiage. You have to be a sponge, let it all soak in and see all the different things I can learn and different places I can help in the defense." 

Those details will become second nature before long, but the process can be arduous without using tricks of the trade. Jones and his teammates have plenty of those at his disposal. 

"There are tons of tricks," Jones said. "The crazy thing is that everyone has their own. We get together on the field and start talking about stuff, guys will use different tricks to memorize things while in your head you're going through yours. It's funny how we all have our own ideas for how to memorize the defense." 

Jones gave us an example of how he processes information, using clues within the term to recall his assignment. 

"I go off the name of the call and see how I can maneuver it in a way I can remember it," he said. "Say the call was "Atlanta." I would use the "T" to mean to set it to the tight end, or something like that. It goes either way."

Then Jones paused, smiled and issued a clarification to all that his example purely hypothetical. There's no information to be mined from "Atlanta," opposing offensive coordinators.

"Now I say that without giving you any information on a call," Jones said with a smile. "I'm just giving you all a little something."

Established Falcons gave Jones a little advice during his first offseason program, passing down how to learn a new language quickly. 

"It was something I did my rookie year, learning a new system and learning it fast," Jones said. "That's how the vets taught me to memorize it, and I put my own spin on things just like everyone else does."

Mastering the language is an important first step and that's happening now. Fluency clears a path for the really important stuff, executing well and making plays after the snap. 

"Obviously, you're going to work your fundamentals and your technique, and you want guys to stop thinking when they break the huddle," head coach Arthur Smith said. "[On] offense, defense or special teams, the memorization part is over. So, then you're learning on how to win the rep and the technique. It all plays into it, so when you do it over and over again, you stop worrying about the things – you know where to get lined up. Now, it's, 'let's go execute.'"

Fans react to an Atlanta Falcons touchdown during the first half of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA, on Sunday November 24, 2019. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Atlanta Falcons)

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