The Falcons could be welcoming back a slew of injured players ahead of their Week 5 matchup against the Buccaneers. After placing Cordarrelle Patterson on the IR on Monday, Atlanta could see Deion Jones, Isaiah Oliver, Marlon Davidson, and Jalen Mayfield back on the active roster after missing the first four weeks of the season.
Now, some of these players could be activated and still not see the field. Mayfield is very clearly not going to be inserted back into the starting lineup when he returns. Elijah Wilkinson has been a massive improvement at left guard this season, and the offensive line as a whole has been a completely different unit compared to 2021. Part of that has to do with changes at center with Drew Dalman taking over for Matt Hennessy, but I’d argue the more considerable difference-making personnel change happened at left guard. Barring any injuries, Wilkinson will be the starter for the remainder of the season.
Deion Jones is another one who might not see the field much when he returns. For several seasons now, the former LSU Tiger’s effectiveness has dropped. There were concerns about his attitude and leadership qualities, but his newfound outlook on the team is excellent news for Falcons fans because Jeff Schultz of The Athletic reported earlier in the offseason the club had tried and failed in their attempts to trade Jones.
“I had no question about me being back here,” Jones said via the team’s website. “I figured I was going to be back here, and I was just getting my mindset ready. Getting my body ready to come back. I definitely have a better outlook on the defense this year,” Jones continued. “I had a chance to look back and figure out where I can help, where I can get better and just being honest with myself.”
Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker have been taking the bulk of the snaps at linebacker this season, and both have performed admirably. Outside of a very shaky Week 4 outing, Walker has been excellent for much of the season as the defense’s signal caller in his first season as a full-time starter. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind any possible way to upgrade this defense, but I’m not quite sure Jones is the answer.
The other two could help the defense immensely. Marlon Davidson hasn’t quite lived up to his second-round draft status, but the Falcons’ defensive line is inarguably the thinnest group on the roster. Davidson certainly won’t take Ta’Quon Graham‘s starting spot because the second-year defender out of Texas has been absolutely fantastic this year. He’s stout against the run and provides far more upside rushing the passer compared to Davidson. Still, the most important thing about a defensive line rotation is remaining fresh, so he’ll undoubtedly see snaps.
Isaiah Oliver’s role as the nickel corner was the first time in his career where he truly thrived. For only a few weeks in 2021, Oliver roamed the slot for Dean Pees’ defense but was incredibly effective in that role. After tearing his ACL, expectations should be tempered, but if he can return to that level of play, it’ll be a terrific boost for Atlanta’s defense.
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