Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Signing Might be the End for Riley

Atlanta Falcons, Stephone Anthony (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons, Stephone Anthony (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Falcons added former first round pick Stephone Anthony to the roster this past week. His entrance could lead to the dismissal of struggling linebacker Duke Riley.

The Atlanta Falcons have signed two linebackers to bolster depth at the position. The team signed linebackers Ritchie Brown and Stephone Anthony.

The 6’2 237 pound Brown entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2017. He led his college team in tackles as a junior and senior. He has been a practice squad guy his entire career and will complete for a backup linebacker spot and a job on the special teams unit.

Stephone Anthony on the other hand is a former first round pick. He was drafted number 31 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Clemson. He is listed at 6’3, weighing 245 pounds.

Stephone Anthony Joins former Clemson teammates Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. In fact I suggested him as a possibility for Atlanta in this article, earlier in the offseason.

The injury to defensive back J.J. Wilcox means that linebacker Kemal Ishmael will return to his original position of strong safety. The season ending aliment Wilcox suffered, created the need for another linebacker.

However the Atlanta Falcons have an incumbent linebacker that has struggled mightily in his career this far. That linebacker is Duke Riley. He was a third round pick by the Dirty Birds in the 2017 NFL draft.

Duke Riley has yet to make an impact in two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He has played in 653 snaps, yet has only 81 combined tackles in two seasons as a pro. At the same time, Riley has missed a whopping 20 tackles in that time span.

Riley has created almost no pressure in this Atlanta tenure, so he isn’t the guy to use on blitz packages despite his speed. He has one total pressure in his career, a quarterback hit last year.

Coverage wise Duke Riley has not fared any better. He has allowed a catch percentage of 84.6 percent in his career and a horrid quarterback rating of 126, according to Pro Football Focus.

Duke Riley has allowed a putrid 9.5 years per reception and 301 of 420 yards after the catch. He’s allowed four touchdowns, including a 51 yarder. Yet during that time, Duke has only one pass breakup. He has zero forced fumbles, zero fumble recoveries and zero interceptions.

The one positive I can state, is the fact that Riley has been flagged for only one penalty in his Atlanta tenure. It has been a rough start to his NFL career, to say the least.

Stephone Anthony on the other hand had a positive start to his career. He started all 16 games as a rookie for the hated rival New Orleans, racking up 105 combined tackles. That’s more than Duke Riley has for his entire career.

Anthony was demoted to third linebacker in his second year and started only three of the ten games he appeared in. A knee injury was the reason for the missed time.

Over his first two seasons Stephone racked up 119 tackles. He provided eight totals pressures during that time, with four hurries, two hits and one sack. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one for a touch down. On the negative side he did miss 16 tackles.

Anthony was traded to the dysfunctional Miami Dolphins, prior to year three in the NFL. He appeared in 24 games during his Miami tenure, but did not receive regular playing time Stephone participated in a miniscule 158 snaps over that span.

Stephone Anthony has allowed players he was covering to convert a reception percentage of 81 percent, during his four-year NFL career. He has allowed a quarterback rating of 131.5. That is a worse number than Duke Riley, so coverage is definitely not his strongest area.

Anthony has allowed a horrendous 11.3 yards per reception, with 419 of 767 yards coming after the catch. He has also allowed eight career touchdowns and committed three penalties. On a positive note he does have one interception and two pass breakups.

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Stephone Anthony isn’t a special player and he certainly has weaknesses, however he has been much more impactful than Duke Riley. He had better production in his first two seasons and has played better overall in his career. He also has the physical ability to fit the Atlanta Falcons fast and physical mantra, running a 4.56 in the 40 yard dash.

The light must come on soon for Duke Riley. If not he could find himself relegated to the bench or worse, out of a job. The Atlanta Falcons have certainly put his feet to the fire with the signing of Stephone Anthony.