First the Falcons lost in Philadelphia, which, to be fair, they do often. Then they lost Keanu Neal, among their three best defenders, for the season to a knee injury. Now they’ve put Deion Jones, one of the other two, on injured reserve. Were I Grady Jarrett, I’d be stepping lightly.
The Falcons have won 21 games over the past two regular seasons in part by being talented and in part by being lucky. Apart from Desmond Trufant, hurt in Tampa in November 2016, they’ve sustained no long-term injury to a significant player. (Vic Beasley missed a month last year and Devonta Freeman had his concussions, but both were available for the postseason.) In 2018, they’ve sustained two in one game.
The Falcons believe Jones will return from his foot ailment at some point, but three of the next four opponents are Carolina, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. They’re 0-1, and they can’t afford to lose many more so early. And Neal and Jones, not to put too fine a point on it, were essentially the model for the fast-’n’-furious defense Dan Quinn envisioned.
You can spout the next-man-up blather all you want, but Neal and Jones are major losses off the Falcons unit that, at least in Philadelphia, acquitted itself best. (Jones had an interception.) Fifteen games remain, so there’s ample time to reconfigure. Trouble is, there are no other K. Neals or D. Joneses on this roster.
Oh, and there’s this, too: KirVonte Benson of Georgia Tech was ruled out for the duration Tuesday with a knee injury that will require surgery. The two most important players on Paul Johnson’s offense and Paul Johnson’s team are the quarterback and the B-back. Benson was the B-back. Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.