The Falcons' ugly to the Eagles has somehow gotten even uglier five days later. After already losing Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal to that was sustained during the game, the Falcons placed Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones on injured reserve on Tuesday with a foot injury that will require a procedure.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the Falcons believe Jones will return later this season.
"Following the game last Thursday, Deion reported soreness in his foot, so we sent him for further tests," said Falcons coach Dan Quinn, per the team's website. "We got the results of those tests back today, and he unfortunately will require a procedure that will result in us having to place him on injured reserve. We are bummed for Deion, but we do expect to get him back at some point this season. He represents all that we are looking for in a Falcon player, and while he will not be on the field for us right now, he will continue to have a presence in our building."
Before he can be activated, Jones is required to miss at least eight weeks.
Jones, a second-round pick in 2016, has blossomed into one of the game's best linebackers. After Thursday's game, during which he grabbed an interception, he's now racked up seven picks and 170 solo tackles in 32 career games. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the league's best coverage linebacker a season ago.
Vaughn McClure, who covers the team for ESPN, speculated that Duke Riley could fill Jones' spot. The Falcons also signed Corey Nelson on Tuesday. Riley actually started six games with the Falcons last year and appeared in 12 total games, during which he recorded 12 solo tackles while Nelson spent the past four seasons in Denver, where he registered 62 solo tackles in 53 games. He spent the summer with the Eagles, but got released before the season.
The truth of the matter is, there aren't really any linebackers that the Falcons can pick up to fill the void left by Jones. That's how good of a player he is. And his absence will absolutely hurt the Falcons' chances of making it back to the playoffs in a very crowded NFC playoff picture.
That being said, it's worth noting that the perfect replacement for Neal, who won't be back this season, is out there on the open market. Eric Reid, a starting caliber safety who would able to fill Neal's spot if the Falcons want to bring in someone from outside the building.
The Falcons will host the Panthers in Week 2. If they lose, they'll already fall two games behind the Panthers in the NFC South.