By Knox Bardeen

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons listed rookie linebacker Deion Jones at 222 pounds last season. Just like what happens to most humans in life, weight goes up with age. Forget about Jones as a 222-pound linebacker.

Before you freak out, there sky isn’t falling.

Every player that leaves the Falcons’ facility at year’s end gets a sit-down with head coach Dan Quinn to lay an offseason plan out… action items, so to speak. One of the things Quinn asked Jones to do before the 2017 season was to gain weight.

“They said a number of things… taking my voice to a new level, footwork, hands and all that,” said Jones about his conversation with Quinn and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich. “The biggest thing was my weight, and all that.”

Jones was the fourth-fastest linebacker at the 2016 NFL Combine and his 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash helped Quinn turn Atlanta’s defense around, to make “fast and physical” a reality. That notion hasn’t stopped in the Falcons’ war room, just take their 2017 draft class as an example.

This Atlanta defense is being built for speed and other coaches around the league are taking notice. Jones finished third in Defensive Most Valuable Player voting and led the rookies of the league with 106 tackles.

Knowing that Quinn still covets speed on defense, don’t worry that Jones’ extra baggage will hinder his ability to chase down ball-carriers. There’s no way the Falcons would ask Jones to gain weight if it meant he’d lose a step in terms of manning his position.

Instead of worrying about Jones’ extra weight, use your imagination. What could a second-year linebacker – one who knows his position and this defense intimately now – do with an extra eight to 13 pounds of muscle if he still maintained his elite speed?

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