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Mcclure: Falcons Can Boost Pass Rush Without A Star


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http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/5515/falcons-can-boost-pass-rush-without-a-star

The Atlanta Falcons aren't panicking -- at least not yet -- over their inability to secure a top pass-rusher this offseason.

Sure, it would have been a nice luxury to land a proven talent such as Brian Orakpo or even a promising rookie such as Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack or Dee Ford. But the Falcons have a game plan, regardless of what outside perception might say.

The coaches and players fully understand the urgency. They know how pathetic the pass rush was last season, when the Falcons sacked or put quarterbacks under duress on just 22.4 percent of dropbacks, second-worst in the NFL. Not to mention the Falcons allowed opponents to convert 45.93 percent on third down, resulting in the league's worst third-down defense.

You know you're in trouble when you make Geno Smith look like an All-Pro.

So how are things supposed to improve? There is plenty of reason to be skeptical, including the absence of a speed-rusher. But I believe a collective effort will help the Falcons take significant strides with their defensive pressure and compensate for the lack of an elite pass-rusher.

[+] Enlargencf_u_hageman_r_200x300.jpg

Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsAthletic rookie Ra'Shede Hageman could give a boost to the Falcons' pass rush in 2014.

Really. I do.

Altering the defensive approach is the first step. Although coach Mike Smith continues to preach defensive multiplicity without revealing much detail, the Falcons will have more of a 3-4 look in 2014. Believe that. It was obvious when players started talking about it immediately after last season. Then the Falcons added bulky nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson up front. Drafting defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman was further confirmation.

Think of it more as the Falcons building toward a 5-2 alignment, with three linemen and two outside linebackers getting pressure. As long as the Falcons can do so with consistency, they'll be fine.

The Falcons hope that having heavy hitters up front will create more stress on opposing offensive linemen and open lanes for the linebackers to make plays. And if he develops quickly, Hageman has the potential to be an outstanding inside rusher and a J.J. Watt-type pass-deflector. He is the wild card in this whole equation.

In regard to the true pass-rushers, the Falcons have plenty of faith in third-year playerJonathan Massaquoi, who had four sacks last season and has played defensive end. His athleticism should be on display more often from the outside linebacker spot in 2014. Massaquoi told me this offseason that he feels the need to atone for not taking advantage of his opportunities last year.

Stansly Maponga and rookie Prince Shembo are the other two young players that intrigue me. Both have pass-rush ability, although Maponga was used sporadically last season. Folks who watched every game Shembo played at Notre Dame believe he is a much better pass-rusher than run defender or coverage guy.

And don't forget about veteran Osi Umenyiora. He led the team with 7.5 sacks but wore down as the season went along. Yes, he's 32 years old and his best days are behind him. But the Falcons could get a lot out of him as a strictly designated pass-rusher, the same role he played at the end of last season. Umenyiora has spent a significant amount of time trying to improve his technique and speed this offseason. To me, that sounds like a veteran determined not to go out with a thud.

When guys like Massaquoi, Maponga and even Umenyiora don't have to bang against offensive tackles regularly, like they did most of the time in a typical 4-3 alignment, they'll be fresher and able to sustain a consistent pass rush. The defensive linemen also should benefit from a strong rotation, considering the Falcons brought back Jonathan Babineaux,Corey Peters and Peria Jerry while adding Soliai, Jackson and Hageman.

There will be an adjustment period all around, particularly for those players getting accustomed to standing up rather than playing with their hands in the ground. The guy who shouldn't flinch is Kroy Biermann, who has experience in both roles. But Biermann -- who played just two games in 2013 because of an Achilles injury -- will be counted upon more against the run than the pass.

Of course, let's not forget the key figure in this whole equation: defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Last year wasn't indicative of what type of defensive mind he is. He's had success in the past out of a 3-4 base. He couldn't be too "multiple" last season, based on personnel. Nolan knows how to disguise coverages and dial up blitzes, when needed. And he'll have more to work with this season, including more capable bodies to sub in and out to keep the pressure consistent.

When you talk about facing the likes of Drew Brees and Cam Newton twice a year and having to contend with a pair of 6-foot-5 receivers in Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, it only emphasizes the importance of pressure for a Falcons team trying to return to playoff contention. It won't be about a guy such as Massaquoi suddenly exploding with double-digit sacks, though the Falcons would take it. It will be more about consistency, getting contributions from a number of different players, and keeping bodies fresh over the duration of 60 minutes.

A more balanced offensive attack with a little more emphasis on the run surely wouldn't hurt in terms of keeping the defense off the field. But when it comes down to it, the Falcons' defenders have to pin their ears back and have the desire to get after it.

The pressure is on.

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we shall see . We stated that last two seasons and look how that has turned out . Think they are trying to put a positive spin on not getting a pass rusher when deep down inside there dumb hearts they know they tried to get a pass rush and FAILED twice

So last season they had multiple large defensive linemen in my three four front?

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Well, if you can waste an offensive teams tackles by making them block the least productive pass rushers, that's a good thing.

That is one of the strengths of a 3-4.....how many RB's and TE's did Lawrence Taylor beat in his career ?

More than a 4-3 DE would have had to.

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He might have a point look at the saints. They have multiple pass rushers because of the heavy dts and des upfront. Explain how junior gallete goes from having 5 sacks in spag's 4-3 to 11 sacks in rob ryans 3-4 defense. And the seahawks dont have a star passrusher. They are big upfront and they do it collectively as a group.

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He might have a point look at the saints. They have multiple pass rushers because of the heavy dts and des upfront. Explain how junior gallete goes from having 5 sacks in spag's 4-3 to 11 sacks in rob ryans 3-4 defense. And the seahawks dont have a star passrusher. They are big upfront and they do it collectively as a group.

Rob Ryan didnt make excuses that he didnt have the bodies . His scheme helped the Saints unlike Nolan who we make excuses didnt have the bodies

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I see a lot of overrating the 3-4. Its my favorite base but I don't know what people are thinking.

I'm not overrating it. I'm just saying that using last two years for comparison when they are using much different players in a different front is a bit fallacious.

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ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure confirms the team "will have more of a 3-4 look" on defense this season.

"Believe that," McClure emphasizes. The Falcons signed a number of 3-4 defensive linemen in free agency, and drafted multiple players who best fit "odd-man fronts." 2013 sack leader Osi Umenyiora is going on age 33 and has no experience as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He's too small to play 3-4 end. McClure suggests Osi will be a "strictly designated pass rusher," or likely a nickel rusher. Ultimately, [we don't see Atlanta finishing as a top-half-of-the-league defense. They have some pieces but lack a difference-making pass rusher.

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ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure confirms the team "will have more of a 3-4 look" on defense this season.

"Believe that," McClure emphasizes. The Falcons signed a number of 3-4 defensive linemen in free agency, and drafted multiple players who best fit "odd-man fronts." 2013 sack leader Osi Umenyiora is going on age 33 and has no experience as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He's too small to play 3-4 end. McClure suggests Osi will be a "strictly designated pass rusher," or likely a nickel rusher. Ultimately, [we don't see Atlanta finishing as a top-half-of-the-league defense. They have some pieces but lack a difference-making pass rusher.

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This IS ESPN we are talking about, not exactly the most credible of sources ,..

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Rob Ryan didnt make excuses that he didnt have the bodies . His scheme helped the Saints unlike Nolan who we make excuses didnt have the bodies

To be honest, the Saints really did have some good defensive talent on their team before Rob Ryan got there. Spags was really misusing their talents.

Rob Ryan's aggressive attacking and blitzing scheme was what they needed to let their talents shine.

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Rob Ryan didnt make excuses that he didnt have the bodies . His scheme helped the Saints unlike Nolan who we make excuses didnt have the bodies

Rob Ryan lives and dies 3-4. We were still a base 4-3 defense with 4-3 bodies and didn't have the bodies for a 3-4 front. Big jon Jenkins weighs 359. We didn't and haven't had that on the roster since big Grady. That's why rob ryan didn't make excuses. They got his fat boy last season which was his first season. I'm tired of the falcons always being behind the 8 ball. Nolan's first year they shoulda got him a big body like the saints did for Ryan. F*uck that hybrid ****. Just be a 3-4 defense. GB made the switch and won. SB shortly after. I think the hybrid is just talk. We'll be more of a 3-4 defense. If not. Expect more of the same.

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Rob Ryan didnt make excuses that he didnt have the bodies . His scheme helped the Saints unlike Nolan who we make excuses didnt have the bodies

The first year for Ryan under the saints they were terrible in run defense and they failed to get past the 2nd round of the playoffs....while having the defense faulted often down the stretch. That lead the saints to losing the division after a 5-0 start......Nolan in his first year helped us get to the NFC title game.....you fail.....again

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The first year for Ryan under the saints they were terrible in run defense and they failed to get past the 2nd round of the playoffs....while having the defense faulted often down the stretch. That lead the saints to losing the division after a 5-0 start......Nolan in his first year helped us get to the NFC title game.....you fail.....again

lol Russell Wilson SHREDDED NOLAN DEFENSE WITH ZACH MILLER

LMFAOOOO

stop it

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Rob Ryan lives and dies 3-4. We were still a base 4-3 defense with 4-3 bodies and didn't have the bodies for a 3-4 front. Big jon Jenkins weighs 359. We didn't and haven't had that on the roster since big Grady. That's why rob ryan didn't make excuses. They got his fat boy last season which was his first season. I'm tired of the falcons always being behind the 8 ball. Nolan's first year they shoulda got him a big body like the saints did for Ryan. F*uck that hybrid ****. Just be a 3-4 defense. GB made the switch and won. SB shortly after. I think the hybrid is just talk. We'll be more of a 3-4 defense. If not. Expect more of the same.

Nolan runs a hybrid. That's what he does.
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