Deion Jones is arguably the Atlanta Falcons’ best defensive player and this season the team is hoping that he can stay on the field for every game.
The middle linebacker missed 10 games last season with a foot injury suffered in Week 1, but he’s set to return this year, especially after signing a four year contract with the club.
Going forward, Jones hopes to use that deal as inspiration to keep improving.
“If you have a vision that’s bigger than the stage you’re in now, you have no choice but to keep going and stay motivated,” Jones told the Falcons website at training camp.
“I’m not done, I still have a lot more I want to accomplish.”
Jones’ presence in the middle of the Falcons’ defense for the past two-plus seasons has been pivotal to the team’s improvement on that side of the ball and has been directly linked to the Falcons’ recent success in getting to the postseason.
Jones was scheduled to make $1,069,860 to play in the 2019 season, and the team was hoping to get relatively favorable terms for him before the marketplace for linebackers rises too high.
A second round pick out of LSU by the Falcons in 2016, Jones led the team in overall tackles in each of his two full seasons, but was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury in Week 1 this past season, a development that kept him off the field for 10 weeks and proved costly for their defense.
Without Jones in the lineup, opposing offenses found it increasingly easy to target the middle of the field, getting consistent yardage with a battery of medium yard passing plays that found Atlanta ultimately ranked second worst in the NFL on third down, allowing teams to move the chains 48.7 percent of the time. Only the Bengals were more generous.
“It’s just a matter of easing back into full speed,” Jones said. “Other than that, everything is good. I’m just working at it every day trying to get back into the flow of things.”
Jones finally returned in time for Atlanta’s Dec. 2 home game against Baltimore, recording a career high 15 single game tackles and sacking Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
In all, Jones played 384 snaps on defense, 35 percent of the Falcons’ total for the year, including every down of their Dec. 9 loss at Green Bay, finishing the season with 53 tackles and two interceptions, including a 41 yard return touchdown in a 40-14 victory over Arizona in Week 15.
The New Orleans native has played particularly well against the Falcons’ arch rival Saints, going 3-1 in four appearances, scoring one of his three career defensive touchdowns, intercepting three passes and returning them for 131 total yards, both of those latter numbers being personal bests for Jones against any opponent.
Jones prepped at Jesuit High in New Orleans, earned a three star rating from the 247Sports Composite, and starred at LSU in 30 career games before coming to Atlanta.