By Tim Weaver
How hard is it to compete when you lose your star middle linebacker? Very hard indeed, as the Falcons discovered firsthand in 2018.
After suffering an injury in the first game of the year against the Eagles, Deion Jones sat out the next three months of the season. Jones’ absence (in addition to season-ending injuries for starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen) was absolutely devastating for Atlanta’s defense. The previous season, the Falcons ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense. With both safeties and the play-caller missing in action, it quickly became one of the league’s worst.
By the time Jones returned for an early December matchup with the Ravens, Atlanta was 4-7 and making the playoffs was a pipe dream. Jones played well down the stretch but it wasn’t enough. In the end, they finished 7-9, missed the postseason and ranked No. 25 in points allowed.
One possible silver lining is that Jones may have a shot to win the Comeback Player of the Year award next season. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s one of the 10 best candidates.
Here’s PFF on how valuable Jones is and just how brutal missing him was for Atlanta’s linebackers in...