Riley collected four tackles and a pass deflection during Sunday's 34-29 victory over Tampa Bay.
It may not seem like a substantial feat, but Atlanta held an opponent to fewer than 30 points for the first time in the past four games, bringing an end to a disheartening three-game skid. This came with the team's 2017 third-round pick, Riley having his defensive snap count sliced from an average of 56.8 plays per game between Week 2 and Week 5, to 28 defensive snaps in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. The decision to peel back Riley's playing time is likely tied to a turbulent performance against Pittsburgh the game prior in which he missed six of a possible 12 tackles. The team prefers rookie Foyesade Oluokun moving forward, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
After a shaky rookie season in 2017 and an up-and-down 2018 preseason, Riley emerged with his best outing as a pro Sunday against Carolina, picking up a career-high nine combined tackles (he never exceeded six tackles in first 13 games of career). Sunday's home game against the Saints presents a daunting task for Riley and the front seven, going up against one of the league's premier offenses without Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones in the lineup. Alvin Kamara is a nightmare matchup coming out of the backfield against this dinged-up linebacking corps, with 15 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown through two games. Atlanta struggled mightily at containing Christian McCaffrey in the passing game Sunday, as the second-year back tore up the Falcons for 14 catches and 100-plus yards in Week 2.
Riley will likely move from weakside linebacker to the mack role, which bodes well for his IDP value. His ability to communicate is one of his biggest strengths and essential for a middle linebacker. After a significant knee injury cut short his rookie season, the 24-year-old looks to be in line for a more prominent role as the season progresses.
Riley recorded 24 tackles in 12 games during his rookie campaign out of LSU, but missed a quarter of the regular season with a knee injury. The Falcons want to give the 23-year old another shot to prove his worth with a third-round draft choice invested, but Foyesade Oluokun of Yale has a puncher's chance to push Riley for the starting role if he continues to play lights-out, as he has throughout OTAs and minicamp. Atlanta allowed 18.9 points per game last season in 14 regular-season and postseason contests with Riley in the lineup and 19.5 points per game when he was inactive between Week 8 and Week 11, which included the only performance in which the team surrendered more than 26 points.
Riley recorded 30 tackles (15 solo) through 12 games this season.
Despite a knee injury that cost the rookie four games, Riley had a solid performance his first year in the league. He'll now get a full offseason to grow in the unit and seems likely to retain his starting position heading into 2018.
|Bye: Week 8|
|9||11/4/18||@ WAS||1:00 pm|
|10||11/11/18||@ CLE||1:00 pm|
|12||11/22/18||@ NO||8:20 pm|
|14||12/9/18||@ GB||1:00 pm|
|16||12/23/18||@ CAR||1:00 pm|
|17||12/30/18||@ TB||1:00 pm|