Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has done an admirable job in his first season as Atlanta's head coach given what the realistic expectations were for this team headed into the season. That doesn’t mean the 7-9 Falcons don’t possess some notable issues, particularly in one crucial phase of the game. The 2021 iteration of the Falcons has not experienced much success on the defensive side of the ball. A unit that's coached by the excellent Dean Pees largely lacks talented playmakers at most levels of their defense. It has led to an underwhelming season defensively as the Falcons currently rank in the bottom 10 in several statistical categories including yards allowed (364.1), rushing yards allowed (127.9), and points allowed (26.8). Takeaways have also been an issue, as the Falcons currently own a meddling -3 in the turnover differential department. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's all bad in Atlanta, however. An intriguing playmaker and unlikely hero has revealed himself throughout the course of the season. Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun continues to thrive and defy the odds in Atlanta's underwhelming defense. Oluokun currently leads the NFL in tackles with an astounding 179 takedowns while serving as one of the year's most heartwarming stories. A sixth-round selection out of Yale back in 2018, Oluokun has shown vast improvement while earning more reps progressively since his rookie season. The 2020 campaign saw Oluokun put up his best numbers yet, having recorded 77 solo tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. It was an intriguing preview of what was yet to come. And then coach Smith and Pees arrived and reformatted their defense by thrusting Oluokun into a new role. Atlanta's new coaching staff decided to place Oluokun at the team's MIKE linebacker position for the first time in his young professional career. That now-genius switch has largely been responsible for his takeoff. Doing so placed him in an ideal situation that allowed his skill set to thrive to the best of his ability. Oluokun has prospered while taking on a leadership role that’s responsible for making the signals and calling the defense. Oluokun has leaned on his football IQ paired with his natural abilities to make plays in the backfield. Oluokun is today's linebacker. An undersized, yet athletic, sideline-to-sideline player with the ability to impact the game on all three downs. Atlanta has experienced a disappointing season defensively, but there are plenty of reasons to maintain hope for 2022 and beyond. Sophomore cornerback A.J. Terrell has quickly developed into one of the most dominant young cover-men in the game despite receiving little national attention for the excellent season he's currently experiencing. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett continues to serve as a steadying presence across their defensive line. Adding Oluokun to the mix provides Atlanta with several building blocks as they plan to revamp and improve their defensive personnel in the offseason. An exciting foundation has been laid, and Oluokun is a big part of that.
- Aug 12, 2022
- Aug 09, 2022