Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins (left) and Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen (37) celebrate after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta won 44-21.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Most of the nation is still unfamiliar with the Atlanta Falcons defense, which is young and inexperienced and didn’t put up spectacular numbers in 2016. But those numbers have improved greatly as the season as worn on, thanks to major improvements from a slew of extremely green but budding stars.
An introduction (sorted by age):
Strong safety Keanu Neal
Claim to fame: The rookie first-round pick has taken on the Kam Chancellor role in former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s D. He forced five fumbles and recorded 72 tackles in 14 regular-season starts.
Linebacker Deion Jones
Claim to fame: The rookie second-round pick led the team with 75 tackles in the regular season while also intercepting three passes and scoring twice. He’s a stud in the making.
Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell
Claim to fame: The rookie fourth-round pick had a monster game in Atlanta’s divisional round victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett
Claim to fame: A few sacks, 38 pressures and a positive Pro Football Focus grade in his first full season as a starter. The second-year fifth-round pick has become an asset up front.
Cornerback Jalen Collins
Claim to fame: The second-year second-round pick has excelled in place of the injured Desmond Trufant. He had two interceptions in eight regular-season games and had a huge forced fumble in the NFC title game.
Cornerback Brian Poole
Claim to fame: The undrafted Florida product somehow emerged as one of the best nickel corners in his rookie season.
Linebacker Vic Beasley
Claim to fame: The second-year No. 8 overall pick exploding with a league-leading 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2016. He might be the defensive player of the year.
Free safety Ricardo Allen
Claim to fame: The 2014 fifth-round pick has played 1,224 of a possible 1,234 snaps this season, starting every game at free safety. He’s superb in pass coverage and has earned the third-best defensive rating on the team from Pro Football Focus.