FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons (5-9) are headed to Charlotte to face NFC South division rival, the Panthers (6-8), on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Here are three must-know stats to know about linebacker Deion Jones heading into this Week 16 matchup:
1. Pick-Debo: Against the Cardinals last Sunday, Jones intercepted rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown, marking his third pick-six since entering the NFL in 2016. The three-year veteran is tied for the most in the NFL during that span, with Eddie Jackson and Alec Ogletree. Jones is the first Falcon to record three interceptions for a touchdown since Kevin Mathis (2003-04). On Sunday, the Panthers are starting Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, his first start in the NFL. Is Heinicke ready to face against Jones? We're about to find out.
2. Tackle time: After missing 10 games this season due to injury, Jones posted a career-high 15 tackles (13 solo) against the Baltimore Ravens in his first game back. The LSU product has played in 35 career games, totaling 281 tackles (189 solo), marking the 11th-most tackles among all defensive players in their first 35 games since 1999. The players still in the league who had more than Jones include Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, Paul Worrilow and Kwon Alexander. In his last three appearances against the Panthers, the three-year pro has totaled at least 10 tackles and one pass defense each time.
3. Linebacker elite: In 35 career games, Jones has recorded eight interceptions, including three for touchdowns and 27 passes defensed. According to Pro Football Reference, those numbers rank as the best among linebackers in their first 35 games dating back to 1999. Jones intercepted three passes in both 2016 and 2017 and currently has two interceptions this season. He has yet pick off a pass against the Panthers – or the Buccaneers – will Jones be able to keep his streak alive?