birdz4i Posted July 3, 2019 Share Posted July 3, 2019 By: Tim Weaver | July 2, 2019 8:00 am The Falcons had a top-10 defense as recently as the 2017 season. Getting back there won’t be easy, but there have been a number of positive developments this offseason. Here’s four key changes that will help Atlanta’s defense bounce back from a disappointing 2018 campaign. 1. Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports Competing in the NFL is all about coaching. If you need proof, just witness the stunning turnaround that the Rams have undergone the last couple of years after moving on from Jeff Fisher and replacing him with Sean McVay. LA went from having the worst offense in the league to perhaps the best overnight, and it was mostly with the same players. The one factor that will decide where Atlanta finishes in the standings most may be how head coach Dan Quinn does as the team’s de facto defensive coordinator. Quinn came up as a defensive line coach and earned his current job by helping mold the Seahawks into the most dominant defense of our time. This current Falcons team can’t compare with the awesome amount of firepower that Seattle had defensively from 2013-2014, but they have enough talent to field an above-average unit at the very least. One key for Quinn will be making adjustments to a cover 3 scheme that looked stale and predictable at times last year. In particular, Freddie Kitchens and Baker Mayfield put on a clinic in how to beat the system in the crushing defeat against Cleveland Week 10. We won’t know until September how Quinn will change things up compared to Marquand Manuel, but there are some early indications that he has plans to do some serious tinkering. From Keanu Neal taking reps with the defensive linemen to Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley working on new pass rush techniques, we might see a lot of tactical tweaks. If Quinn mixes things up well enough schematically, it should make scoring on Atlanta much more difficult this season. 2. Adrian Clayborn’s return to the edge rotation Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports Quinn can make all the tweaks and wrinkles and adjustments he wants – if the Falcons don’t improve their pass rush it’s going to be extremely hard to win the NFC South this year. Last season Atlanta’s pressure rate left a lot to be desired. The good news is that Adrian Clayborn’s return to the edge rotation will help a lot. Clayborn was of course the Falcons’ leading pass rusher in 2017 when he led the team with 9.5 sacks. While a lot of those came in one game against a backup left tackle, Clayborn is one of the league’s most consistent edge rushers when it comes to getting pressure. In fact, last season with the Patriots Clayborn had the highest pressure rate of any defensive end in the NFL. Getting him back for just $2 million might be the best move that general manager Thomas Dimitroff makes all year. 3. Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen back in the lineup (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Having a strong pass rush is critical for modern NFL defenses, but the Falcons got a harsh reminder last season what happens when you’re shorthanded on the back end. The season-ending injuries to starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen proved to be too devastating for Atlanta to overcome, even with a new rising star in the secondary rising to the challenge. When healthy, Neal is one of the top defensive backs in the league and his return should be a game changer for the Falcons defense. Allen probably won’t make the Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s underrated and also a critical piece for Atlanta’s secondary. Getting both of them back on the field should give a massive boost to a unit that looked overwhelmed more often than not last season. It will also allow Quinn to put what may be his most promising defensive weapon to use in new and interesting ways… 4. Damontae Kazee’s move to nickel corner Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports With Neal and Allen out for the year, the Falcons desperately needed somebody to step up and hold things down in the defensive backfield. Second-year DB Kazee answered the call and went a whole lot further, too. Kazee played a fearless and fast brand of football last year that exemplifies the way Quinn wants his defenders to operate. In addition to leading the NFL in interceptions, Kazee showed awesome range and speed on film, which should give him every opportunity to be successful at his new position. With Brian Poole moving on to the Jets in free agency, Atlanta will be sliding Kazee over to his old spot at nickel corner. He has previous experience at the position in college and his skill-set should make it a relatively seamless transition. Unless Kazee has a major injury of his own, there’s a strong chance this Falcons secondary could be the most improved unit in football this year. https://thefalconswire.usatoday.com/2019/07/02/falcons-defense-2019-changes-dan-quinn-damontae-kazee-adrian-clayborn/4/ Goober Pyle, PokerSteve, wnyfalconfan and 3 others 6 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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