Back in September, the NFL named Deion Jones its Defensive Rookie of the Month after he recorded 25 tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown in three games. Following Atlanta's matchup with LA, during which Jones became the 29th rookie in NFL historyto record a second pick-six, he's emerged as a leading candidate for another award: Defensive Rookie of the Year.
One member of the media who thinks Jones has what it takes to win DROY honors is Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar. While Farrar believes Joey Bosa, Leonard Floyd, Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner have all made strong cases, he said that, through 14 weeks, Atlanta's second-round pick has earned his vote.
"Make no mistake, Jones is just one part of an unbelievable rookie haul on that side of the ball for general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn," Farrar wrote. "First-round safety Keanu Neal, fourth-round linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and undrafted safety/slot man Brian Poole have all made key contributions. But especially in the second half of the season, Jones has set himself apart with a compelling combination of field awareness, toughness, speed, agility and an overall understanding of the game."
Jerod Brown, Farrar's colleague at B/R, noted that Jones has already become an above-average starter by utilizing his speed, playing aggressively and building on that aggression by "demonstrating an impressive ability to process what's happening in front of him before putting himself in a position to be successful." For the Falcons' middle linebacker, who is essentially the defense's field general, that last point is key.
As Farrar's film breakdown shows, Jones has quickly adapted to the complexities of professional football. He hasn't let his 222-pound frame become a detriment. He's become a leader, too, one who can be counted on to make the right pre-snap adjustments and shoulder a lot of responsibility.
The numbers back up the tape. Among NFL rookies, Jones is first in defensive touchdowns (two) and tied for first in interceptions (three) and tackles (59).
"Deion Jones isn't the flashiest guy, but he's flashy enough. He's not the strongest player, but he's strong enough. Everything you want a modern inside linebacker to do, he can do, and he's becoming more consistent as he goes along," Farrar wrote. "He's a special player, and I can't think of a defensive rookie who's been more crucial to his team's success this season."