Atlanta Falcons: Rookies Will Play Heavy Role On Defense Again

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Julian Edelman
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Julian Edelman /

One of the unknowns of 2016 for the Atlanta Falcons was how the rookies would respond. One of the knowns of 2017 is that they are asking that question again.

Yes, it is possible to talk about this year’s Atlanta Falcons team without talking about last year’s team. But it’s incredibly difficult. Most of us haven’t really even processed last year’s team and all the highs and then that really awful low. We just put it away, and tried to move on. Or, maybe that’s just me.

This is mainly because last year’s team was so incredibly interesting. Probably the most interesting thing, aside from, possibly, the dominance of Julio Jones, or the emergence of Vic Beasley Jr., was that there were four rookies on that defensive unit who contributed and did so at a high level. De’Vondre Campbell, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Brian Poole, all played major roles on that side of the ball. Add to that the contributions of Austin Hooper, C.J. Goodwin, and Joshua Perkins and the rookies of 2016 straight balled out.

One would think that couldn’t happen two years in a row. One would be wrong. There are three rookies who already look like they will see huge PT this year.

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Naturally, as the 1st Round pick in the NFL Draft, Takkarist McKinley looks to see big minutes, if for nothing else, than to rush the QB opposite Beasley. While technique and conditioning will need to continue to improve, his ability has flashed already this fall.

Almost as naturally, as the 2nd Round NFL Draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons, Duke Riley, will also get to show out early, whether on Special Teams or in a reserve role on Defense. The LB room has more depth now than a few years ago, so it isn’t a guarantee that Riley will play a majority of minutes, but we will hear his name.

Damontae Kazee has surprised in camp, and until a reported ankle injury in Sunday’s 2nd Pre-Season game,  he was spoiling for major minutes in the Secondary. If he can get that ankle right, it seems that he has earned the coaches’ trust. The diminutive ball-hawk doesn’t get rattled and is not afraid to stick a hat in there.

If true, and this is all a testament to the drafting efforts, and development of players, by Dan Quinn. If these three dudes play a positive and significant role, and the 2016 rookies continue to progress, it will go down as two of the greatest NFL Drafts in our franchise history.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: Devonta Freeman Will be Held Out of Game

It also gives a lot of hope for the future. Which makes the recent past feel a little better.