Isaiah Oliver's improved play earns him new nickname

Expectations for Isaiah Oliver were high heading into to the season, there's no doubt about it.

After playing in 14 games in his rookie season with two starts, the former second-round pick would assume the starting role for the 2019 season.


"You have to make decisions based on what you think a person can do and what they will develop into," Quinn said during the NFL owners meetings in March. "It' pretty rare for a guy to be as good as they're going to be in their rookie year. I think he and some of the guys from that first year are going to get better as we go."

As training camp got underway, the glimpses of what Oliver could be in Atlanta's defense playing opposite of Desmond Trufant were on display.

But the first half of Atlanta's season didn't go as planned for anyone, including Oliver. At the midway point of the season, the Falcons were 1-7.

The defense struggled to get pressure on quarterbacks consistently, create turnovers and gave up the second-most amount of points per game (31.3).

The Falcons have been a different team since the bye week on defense.

Quinn switched assistant head coach Raheem Morris from wide receivers coach back to the defensive side of the ball to oversee the secondary and Oliver is a player who has benefited from the coaching move.

He was even given a new nickname when Morris took over his position room.

"The blanket."

Why the "blanket" you might ask?

"Because he wraps people up," Morris said. "That's his job. The young blanket."

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.

Since the bye, Oliver has allowed a 97.8 quarterback passer rating. In the last six games, Oliver has been targeted 31 times and allowed 23 receptions and zero touchdowns.

Where Oliver's game has seen the most from the beginning of the season to now is the amount he's cut down on penalties.

In the first eight games, he committed five penalties. In the last six games he's committed only one.

"'The blanket' has really been one of the guys I've been able to directly affect," Morris said of Oliver's development. "Being able to be with him, switch some his technique things, some of his fundamentals. He's a really smart football player, so he's easy to communicate with. He's one of the few guys you can say something too in the classroom and watch him take it to the grass without making a mistake. Extremely smart, wants to be physical, plays it the right way. The blanket has done well for me since I've been over there coaching him."

Oliver agreed with his coach on which areas he feels he's improved in his game. And with two games to play in his second season, Oliver is hoping to close out the year on a positive note.

"Everything within the defense … whether that be communication or playing the techniques of the defense better," Oliver said. "Everything is just kind of clicking a little bit better now."

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