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After Further Review: Falcons’ poor run defense overshadowed something important

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The Falcons allowed 172 yards on the ground in their season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings. That is far too high a number for a defense with playoff aspirations, and the Vikings’ ability to get explosive plays through their run game allowed them to dictate much of the action.

And yet, although the Falcons’ run defense was far below the team’s standard, the interior of the defensive line was quite possibly the top-performing group for Atlanta on Sunday. When people think about the success or failure of a defense against the run, they most often think about the big defenders up front.

That wasn’t the problem for the Falcons against the Vikings.

Atlanta did have issues stopping interior runs last season, and the team made some quiet moves this offseason that appear to be paying off in a big way. Just from looking at the stat sheet, however, you might not realize it.

Let’s start with Grady Jarrett, who looked like the best player on the field for the Falcons on Sunday. Jarrett has always been effective as both a pass rusher and a run defender, but he seemed to be operating at an even higher level than usual against the Vikings.

“We've known about Grady, but to see him take another step this off-season and where he's starting this season, I think that goes a lot to the work that he put in even when he wasn't here; the unseen grind,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

Jarrett finished with five tackles against the Vikings – tied with Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun for third-most on the team – and he also had the Falcons’ only sack and forced fumble.

Early in the second quarter, Jarrett derailed a Minnesota drive by blowing past left guard Pat Elflein in the blink of an eye to drop Vikings running back Alexander Mattison for a 4-yard loss.

On the Vikings’ next drive, Jarrett again beats Elflein with a swim move to stop Dalvin Cook for no gain. This was often the result when the Vikings decided to test the middle of Atlanta’s defensive line. Minnesota ran the ball up the middle 12 times on Sunday and it averaged only 2.6 yards per carry when it did so, compared to the 10.7 yards per carry the Vikings averaged on runs off the left and right ends.

That inability to find space was largely due to the interior players winning their one-on-one matchups as Jarrett did against Elflein.

Jarrett very nearly swings the entire feel of the game on the second play of the second half when he flies into the backfield to strip the ball from quarterback Kirk Cousins. Had the Falcons recovered the ball, the offense would have been set up right around the 20-yard line with a good opportunity to score their first points of the game.

The success of the defensive line’s interior may have been led by Jarrett, but the contributions of Allen Bailey and Tyeler Davison – two new faces within the unit – were crucial.

After allowing two early touchdowns, Atlanta’s defense settled in and began to play better, and both Bailey and Davison had roles in making that happen. Davison led all Falcons defenders with eight tackles, including one tackle for a loss. And Bailey earned three tackles, including one for a loss, in his debut for Atlanta.

During his time with the New Orleans Saints, Davison earned a reputation as a solid run defender, and he delivered on that reputation against Minnesota. The Falcons appeared to be operating out of more of a 3-4 look up front as both Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley were standing edge defenders throughout the game. This meant that Davison was often used as a true nose tackle while Jarrett and Bailey worked against Minnesota’s guards.

As the anchor of the defensive line, Davison was very active and showed off some surprising quickness.

“Inside I was pleased,” Quinn said. “I think you guys saw what I had been talking about, about how strong and stout Ty [Davison] was.”

Bailey didn’t have as many plays as Davison, but he was no less important for Atlanta on the inside. The Vikings ran a lot of outside zone plays, requiring the Falcons to either make plays in the backfield before Minnesota’s backs could stretch the defense or pursue down the line of scrimmage to make the tackle.

While Jarrett and Davison showed their prowess in knifing into the backfield, Bailey was really good at following the play and making the tackle before the backs to get to the second level.

Was Atlanta’s run defense acceptable on Sunday? Not at all. But the overall performance of the group shouldn’t necessarily overshadow what was the clear improvement of a problem area for the Falcons last season.

When discussing what the Falcons need to clean up against the run, start with setting the edge and plays like this:

The Falcons have enough athletes on their defense to contain the outside plays that decimated them in Week 1. What should have fans excited moving forward is that Atlanta appears to have improved its run defense between the tackles, which was an issue in 2018 and will be very important on Sunday against a Philadelphia Eagles offense that is very good at the line of scrimmage.

https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/after-further-review-falcons-poor-run-defense-overshadowed-something-important

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We are a 3-4 defense. May take a couple of games to adjust to this. Especially for our DE's

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Vel great thread but I’m sorry to say alot of the fools that are going to comment on this are probably the same idiots throwing darts about how much Jarrett was over paid or how they compare his importance to the defense vs a DEbo or someone of that ilk.

Jarretts always been a beast I guess it just took a game like this to only magnify that fact yet alot of fans round here wanted him shown the door.

One word Jokers.

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I dont want to say this but boy i saw some misses by Neal too....He is coming off injuries so he should get a pass but he was out of position on some of the runs on the edge

 

Hopefully the back seven get it together because its def fixable but mannnnnnn

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2 hours ago, atljbo said:

I dont want to say this but boy i saw some misses by Neal too....He is coming off injuries so he should get a pass but he was out of position on some of the runs on the edge

 

Hopefully the back seven get it together because its def fixable but mannnnnnn

I saw that too atljbo. Even saw Allen slow to the ball a couple times. Also our LBers (Campbell especially) did not have a very good game either, IMO. 

But to the OP's point, yes our interior DL looks to be much improved. That will bode well for us this year. 

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5 minutes ago, atljbo said:

I dont want to say this but boy i saw some misses by Neal too....He is coming off injuries so he should get a pass but he was out of position on some of the runs on the edge

 

Hopefully the back seven get it together because its def fixable but mannnnnnn

Oh yea Neal looked like shlt. Don't hold back. Anybody saying otherwise didn't watch the game. I'm not giving him a pass. He had plenty of time to get it together. 

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1 minute ago, vel said:

Oh yea Neal looked like shlt. Don't hold back. Anybody saying otherwise didn't watch the game. I'm not giving him a pass. He had plenty of time to get it together. 

dude coming off a acl....... He gets a pass... He looked unsure to me... Just my opinion

 

 

 

this was one of the runs

 

 

 

I was like nooooooooo bro... Neal dont do thattttttt.. Thats not the normal neal yo.... Ive seen neal get off blocks in amazing form and make tackles

 

Again,,,, Looking at the vikings.. They were attacking the LOS even when running east and west...... We was just running east and west... Out of position.... Never attacking forward towards the LOS.

 

We have to get it right because Philly runs that same outside zone

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Got to give the Vikings credit.

They out played the Falcons and Cook is a good back.

The Falcons may have helped him on his way to the Pro Bowl.

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1 minute ago, Jesus said:

Bailey and Davison are already a huge helps to Jarrett

In base D, yes to make more plays in the backfield and having 2 other stout DL if it’s inside.

In Nickel, hoping Crawford and AC can swing inside some...and I’m expecting a good year from Takk and bonus would be anything out of Vic.

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15 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Heard DQ say back in the summer that part of the season for going to the 2pt. stance for Takk and Vic was the help with setting the edge.

:(

Well, that didn't work. LOL

Did see a play in the fourth quarter where Takk was engaged with a blocker on the edge and still tackled the RB with one arm. Need more of that.

 

Do think that, if that had been game 8 of the season, with the Falcons  5-2 going into the game and then had the same game; we'd be much more inclined to write it off as one of those games.

PokerSteve likes this

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8 minutes ago, falconidae said:

Well, that didn't work. LOL

Did see a play in the fourth quarter where Takk was engaged with a blocker on the edge and still tackled the RB with one arm. Need more of that.

 

Do think that, if that had been game 8 of the season, with the Falcons  5-2 going into the game and then had the same game; we'd be much more inclined to write it off as one of those games.

I saw that too. And I’m all for experimenting but this may be one of those cases where DQ might be outthinking himself. He seems to be intent on making Vic an every down player, which in this alignment means turning him into a linebacker for all intents and purposes. We’ve seen that experiment.

Put Takk back on the weak side so he doesn’t have to set an edge every down and Bailey at the 5. If we can’t find a true SAM to play on top of the TE to play the Under, which may be the real reason for all this, then so be it. Put Claborn on the other side and we’ll play Over.

We can still get 8 men in the box and we can get three true linebackers on the field with Foye out there.

Edited by PeytonMannings Forehead

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I actually really like the idea behind the base D look but it requires our edges and 2nd level guys to do their job; to beat a dead horse.

Think about it:

Davison either takes on a double team or gets a chance to 1on1 the C or at times an OG.

Grady gets more 1on1.

Bailey gets 1on1 oppo.

This puts Takk and Vic upright on the outside of either OT or sometimes they will engage a TE.

You have to like those matchups if it’s a pass vs your base but how will it hold up vs the run over the season?

The key is how gap assignments and run fits from 2nd level change in the new alignment BUT it does put you in a position to be more stout and hopefully make more plays on the edge as a result of being better up the middle.

I think it’ll get fixed and could become the best D under Quinn yet.

Edited by Ergo Proxy

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2 minutes ago, Ergo Proxy said:

I actually really like the idea behind the base D look but it requires our edges and 2nd level guys to do their job; to beat a dead horse.

Think about it:

Davison either takes on a double team or gets a chance to 1on1 the C or at times an OG.

Grady gets more 1on1.

Bailey gets 1on1 oppo.

This puts Takk and Vic upright on the outside of either OT.

The key is how gap assignments and run fits from 2nd level change in the new alignment BUT it does put you in a position to be more stout and hopefully make more plays on the edge as a result of being better up the middle.

I think it’ll get fixed and could become the best D under Quinn yet.

What about the pass rush?

Schwarzwald and FalconsIn2012 like this

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Just now, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

What about the pass rush?

If we can get teams into our Nickel it’ll be a 4 man front.

We didn’t see many pass attempts yet but I like the chances of creating 1on1s with Grady/DE oppo him (think Crawford or Cominsky later this year if he progresses) and then you can always bring Takk or Vic or both if the matchup in a 3rd and long keeps Base D out there but I’d expect a sub to Crawford or AC in those scenarios. Depends on what teams do.

It seems like a goal of creating more 1on1s in base. I think it’ll lend itself to some blitzing, but obviously the run D is the biggest concern as of today.

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