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Falcons looking to fix 'embarrassing' pass rush


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Falcons looking to fix 'embarrassing' pass rush

Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – When Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn looks at the stat sheet and sees one sack for the team through two games, he shakes his head.

"Nobody wants to see that, man. It's embarrassing," Clayborn said. "That's embarrassing, to be honest."

Vic Beasley Jr. is the guy credited with the one sack, and it came only as a result of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr running out of bounds with Beasley in pursuit.

"It's hurtful," Beasley said of the team's sack production. "But we know what we're capable of. We just have to keep going. We have to keep the right mindset and stay positive."

The Falcons enter Week 3 at the bottom of the league, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with just one sack. Remember, the Falcons finished last in the league with 19 sacks a year ago. And, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the Falcons have posted two sacks or fewer in 19 consecutive games, by far the longest active streak. The next longest streak is held by the Raiders, Panthers, and Browns (five consecutive games each).

Monday night's game against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints would be the perfect time to start generating pressure, no matter how difficult it will be to get after the quick-trigger veteran quarterback. The Falcons sacked Brees just once in 81 pass attempts last season. They would love to mirror the performance from December 2014, when the Falcons sacked Brees five times and picked him off twice in a 30-14 win to eliminate the Saints from playoff contention.

For the Falcons to affect Brees, they’ll have to work in unison.

"It's coming together," said Dwight Freeney, the seven-time Pro Bowler who was signed this preseason to get sacks. "Pass rush is like chipping on a boulder -- keep hitting at it, keeping chipping at it, and one of these games or ones of these times, that boulder's going to crack. So, it's going to happen. I think we've got some stuff installed."

First and foremost, the Falcons might be able to take advantage of the Saints' injury situation. Starting left tackle Terron Armstead is out for the game with a knee injury, meaning Freeney could see Andrus Peat, Senio Kelemete or Tony Hills while rushing from the right side.

Going back to the season opener against Tampa Bay, the Falcons ran somewhat of an effective stunt with Freeney and Clayborn on the right side that allowed Freeney to come free on an inside rush, although it didn't result in a sack. Running such stunts effectively -- and quickly -- might be part of the solution against Brees, with the aspect of bringing pressure in his face and disturbing his vision. When pressure comes off the edges, the savvy Brees typically has the pocket presence to step up and make a play anyhow.

"In practice, it works well," said defensive lineman Derrick Shelby, who typically works off Beasley on the left side, of the stunts. "We just have to transfer that over to the game. Brees, he's a shorter guy, so you’ve got to have guys in his face. And once he starts to move, he's not nearly the quarterback he is sitting in the pocket. That's always the plan with Brees. You've got to get him off the spot."

Last year at the Georgia Dome, Beasley came on an inside rush against Brees in the red zone and put his hands up to deflect a pass, but Beasley was called for roughing the passer after hitting Brees in the head with his follow-through.

In the same game, the Falcons tried to pressure Brees by sending linebacker Philip Wheeler on the blitz. Wheeler, known as the team's best blitzer, is moving back to inside linebacker, so maybe he'll be involved Monday. At the same time, the Falcons believe they're better equipped to blitz and play man to man when rookie linebacker De'Vondre Campbell is on the field in coverage. Campbell is out again this week with a significant left ankle injury.

Brees is completing 73 percent of his passes so far this season when he's not blitzed, by the way.

However, if the Falcons plan to attack Brees, they have to be more disruptive than they've been the first two games.

"Everything is good," Freeney said. "It's coming. Some games, the ball is going to come out quickly. If it's under 2 seconds or 2.5 seconds, I don't care who you are, you're not going to get the sack."

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2 minutes ago, Knight of God said:

Try putting the best guys on the field at the same time.

That's something that's starting to irk me too.  I assume it's just my general lack of knowledge of anything related to defensive football, but I don't understand it.

Then again, the last staff did it too, and we all complained then.  When 2 staffs do the same thing, maybe it ain't the coaching that's the problem.  Maybe they're just trying to cobble together enough minimally competent lines to field a minimally competent defense.

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5 minutes ago, Knight of God said:

Try putting the best guys on the field at the same time.

I don't like the no push pass rushing DEs at DT. It's like we make the perfect pocket for them. Hags and Jarrett with Freeney and Beasley on a no-spin edge rush might actually work. Those real DTs get good penetration. I've been watching Jarrett a lot lately and he can't be stopped sometimes even on a Double, so why only have him on run plays?  You can't double Hags and Jarrett. Compress the pocket and we will get sacks. Shelby and Clay on the inside ain't gonna cut it. 

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Well this is a problem that goes back a decade. Abe was the only player in recent times that could pass rush by himself.

What we have lacked is an emphasis on getting really huge fat guys on the DL. We need at least 2 330LB + fat monsters on the DL to collapse the pocket and allow our DE's to get to the QB.

For several Regime's now we have gone finesse for our DL's. But the few times we got a fat monster on DL it worked out well, Grady Jackson was a great benefit for our team Soliai was a great run stuffer.

Why can't we ever have a couple of big monsters on the DL to rotate with?

 

 

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2 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Well this is a problem that goes back a decade. Abe was the only player in recent times that could pass rush by himself.

What we have lack is an emphasis and getting really huge fat guys on the DL. We need at least 2 330LB + fat monster on the DL to collapse the pocket and allow our DE's to get to the QB.

For several Regime's now we have gone finesse for our DL's. But the few times we got a fat monster on DL it worked out well, Grady Jackson was a great benefit for our team Soliai was a great run stuffer.

Why can't we ever have a couple of big monsters on the DL to rotate with?

 

 

Jarrett and Hags. But for some reason they are on in on base. No buckle. 

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Just now, MAD597 said:

Well this is a problem that goes back a decade. Abe was the only player in recent times that could pass rush by himself.

What we have lack is an emphasis and getting really huge fat guys on the DL. We need at least 2 330LB + fat monster on the DL to collapse the pocket and allow our DE's to get to the QB.

For several Regime's now we have gone finesse for our DL's. But the few times we got a fat monster on DL it worked out well, Grady Jackson was a great benefit for our team Soliai was a great run stuffer.

Why can't we ever have a couple of big monsters on the DL to rotate with?

No we don't.  We never had that when Abe was here.  We don't need it now.  We MIGHT need one guy well over 300 (but more like 310-320), and we might not.  They typically like the nose in our base defense to be a shorter, squatter guy.  Still needs to be big, but not gigantic.  The other DT is going to be a penetrator, and you sure don't want him being 330 pounds +.  You want him being under 300 or right at it, with good pass rush skills.  

And, for the record, that's the guy we're missing.  We need an interior rush tackle.  

In nickel the problem is even worse.  The good news is I think Jarrett can play both roles.  If they can get Hageman on board, the interior line could be deadly, and that's good news because Hageman looked really, really good in the preseason and looked okay against Oakland.

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28 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Well this is a problem that goes back a decade. Abe was the only player in recent times that could pass rush by himself.

What we have lacked is an emphasis on getting really huge fat guys on the DL. We need at least 2 330LB + fat monsters on the DL to collapse the pocket and allow our DE's to get to the QB.

For several Regime's now we have gone finesse for our DL's. But the few times we got a fat monster on DL it worked out well, Grady Jackson was a great benefit for our team Soliai was a great run stuffer.

Why can't we ever have a couple of big monsters on the DL to rotate with?

 

 

Soliai and Jackson a few years back were one of the larger DT tandems in the league....didn't help.

And I don't agree with two big cloggers in general. I would be curious to see the size of DTs on the top 5 or so teams in sack production. I keep imagining them having guys like Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, but that could be completely wrong.

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29 minutes ago, Knight of God said:

RE Freeney, DT Jarrett, DT Upshaw, LE Schofield, SLB Beasley

Thanks for your specific response. In the nickle packages, Atlanta has been taking out the SLB and putting in a NCB (Poole) and using Beasley at DE. They keep the MLB and WLB as the cover LBs and basically use a 4-2-5 package in the Nickel.  With Beasley staying in at SLB, who would you eliminate (one of the cover LBs or the NCB) and what formation would you use?

As far as generating an interior pass rush with the DTs, I do think that Jarrett has that ability. However, to use Jarrett in the nickel, you need to take him out of the base defense a good bit. I haven't seen anything from Upshaw yet to indicate that he could collapse the pocket from a DT position. I thought Derrick Shelby might have that pocket-collapsing ability, but have not seen it from him yet this season. To me, I think Hageman has shown some ability to collapse a pocket, so I would prefer to try Hageman as one of the DTs in the nickel.

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10 minutes ago, high impact said:

If we see the same pass rush from the first two games Brees will just light it up tonight. Its time for change. I sure hope they Falcons can turn up the heat on defense.

We signed Scho this week.  I doubt that's a coincidence.  They are changing things up.

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