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Better, worse or the same? Falcons' new-look D-line needs to amp up pass rush


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https://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/35391/better-worse-or-the-same-falcons-hope-new-look-d-line-creates-more-pressure

 

 

Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris helped lead a midseason resurgence in 2019. The Falcons had a 6-2 finish following a 1-7 start after Morris was switched from coaching receivers to defensive backs. Now it’s up to the defense to carry that momentum into 2020, especially against quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater in the NFC South.

Here’s a position-by-position look at whether the Falcons are better, worse or the same as the 2019 team on defense:

Defensive line

Additions: Dante Fowler Jr. (Rams), Charles Harris (trade, Dolphins), Marlon Davidson (second round/draft), Austin Edwards (undrafted), Sailosi Latu (undrafted), Hinwa Allieu (undrafted), Bryson Young (undrafted)

Losses: Vic Beasley Jr. (Titans), Adrian Clayborn (Browns), Jack Crawford (Titans)

Returners: Grady Jarrett, Takk McKinley, Tyeler Davison, Allen Bailey, Steven Means, John Cominsky, Deadrin Senat, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Austin Larkin

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Snaps played 2019: Fowler (844), Jarrett (765), Davison (532), McKinley (513), Bailey (488), Harris (397), Tuioti-Mariner (180), Cominsky (91), Senat (18), Larkin (6)

The Pro Bowler Jarrett, a run-stuffer and pass-rush demon, anchors the line. But Jarrett needs help. The Falcons hope they found it in pass-rusher Fowler, who had 11.5 sacks with the Rams last season, and the rookie Davidson, who showed a high motor at Auburn. Against the run, envision Jarrett teaming with Davison inside with Bailey and Fowler or perhaps the rookie Davidson playing defensive end. Bailey and Davison don’t get enough credit for their ability to stuff the run.

The Falcons obviously have to generate more pressure than the 28 sacks they posted last season. The pass-rush foursome seems destined to be Jarrett and the second-rounder Davidson inside, with Fowler and McKinley coming off the edges. Plus, the Falcons can rotate guys such as Means, Cominsky and possibly the newcomer Harris -- a former first-round pick -- to keep bodies fresh.

Linebackers

Additions: LaRoy Reynolds (Bengals), Mykal Walker (fourth round/draft), Edmond Robinson (XFL), Deone Bucannon (Buccaneers/Giants), Jordan Williams (undrafted)

Losses: De’Vondre Campbell (Cardinals)

Returners: Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokun, Ahmad Thomas

Better, worse or the same? Worse, at least initially.

Snaps played 2019: Jones (902), Oluokun (291), Bucannon (226), Reynolds (42)

Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said he envisions Jones evolving into the best middle linebacker in the game. Jones has the speed to make plays sideline to sideline and keep up with division running backs such as Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. Jones grew accustomed to having Campbell by his side, but now Oluokun is expected to be Jones’ primary tag team partner. Oluokun might have to fill that role of covering tight ends that Campbell played well.

Defensive end Fowler is likely to play the strongside 'backer role in the base defense on first down with Jones at middle linebacker and Oluokun as the weakside linebacker. The wild card in the linebacker equation might be the rookie Walker, who is expected to be a solid contributor but was not highly rated coming out of Fresno State.

Cornerbacks

Additions: A.J. Terrell (first round/draft), Josh Hawkins (XFL), Tyler Hall (undrafted), Delrick Abrams (undrafted)

Losses: Desmond Trufant (Lions)

Returners: Kendall Sheffield, Isaiah Oliver, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jordan Miller

Better, worse or the same? Better long term.

Snaps played 2019: Oliver (875), Sheffield (664), Wreh-Wilson (312), Miller (23)

Expect the Falcons to be in nickel close to 70% of the time, so that would mean having Sheffield, Oliver and the rookie Terrell all on the field at once. Sheffield, a speedster and elite athlete who could evolve into the No. 1 corner, is most likely to work inside in those packages, and opponents have tried to put their best receivers in the slot against the Falcons in the past.

In the base defense, the best two corners will be on the field, which likely would leave Sheffield playing outside, with Oliver and Terrell battling for the other spot. The relative inexperience of the trio means the Falcons should consider adding a veteran such as Logan Ryan or Aqib Talib, who both have ties to the Falcons' staff. Talib played for Morris in Tampa Bay; Ryan played at Rutgers when Falcons wide receivers coach Dave Brock coached at the school. The veteran Wreh-Wilson has the ability to contribute in spot duty, and Miller is a project who could provide depth after finishing the final three games of a four-game suspension. The emphasis for the entire group will be on creating more takeaways, as the Falcons had a minus-5 turnover ratio last season.

Safeties

Additions: Jaylinn Hawkins (fourth round/draft), Ray Wilborn (undrafted), Rojesterman Farris (undrafted)

Losses: Kemal Ishmael (free agent), J.J. Wilcox (free agent), Johnathan Cyprien (free agent)

Returners: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Sharrod Neasman, Jamal Carter, Chris Cooper, C.J. Reavis

Better, worse or the same? Better.

Snaps played 2019: Allen (901), Kazee (761), Neal (152), Carter (101), Neasman (8)


This might be the most interesting dilemma facing the Falcons this season: How do you keep Allen, Neal and Kazee on the field at the same time? Allen is the defensive leader and like another coach on the field. Neal, coming off an Achilles tear after an ACL tear the season before, is a hard-hitting enforcer and Pro Bowl talent when healthy. And Kazee is the ball hawk with 10 interceptions in his past 29 games. The Falcons appear destined to use a three-safety look, perhaps with both Allen and Kazee down in the box and Kazee in the middle of the field. Neal could also play dime linebacker on occasion. Whatever the case, having three starting-caliber safeties is a good problem to have. The rookie Hawkins, listed as a strong safety, could be a surprise contributor despite not being highly regarded as a fourth-rounder.

*The Falcons’ specialists include kicker Younghoe Koo, punters Ryan Allen and Sterling Hofrichter (drafted/seventh round) and long-snapper Josh Harris

 

 

Edited by Goober Pyle
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CB is a question mark - how will AJ Terrell work out highly doubtful he walks in day one better than Trufant. I’d say we need another vet CB

DL should be better if Marlon has a good rookie year but is he better than Clayborn. Fowler should be much better than Bs at both the run and pass rush.
 

KK is another question mark - if he comes back at near 90-100% he upgrades the whole defense 

 

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Key to the pass rush is Takk McKinley getting his head right and growing up and start acting like a pro. If he breaks out then things look a lot better than they do now.

Other than that, they need a vet CB (Darquize Dennard?) and maybe a vet LB. I've never been sold on Rico Allen because he's limited athletically but he's under contract, and Blank said that he'd be a Falcon for life when they did his extension in 2018 (groan).

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I think Takk has it in him to hiT double digit sacks but yea he’s needs to get his tude right. 
Rico’s not the greatest but he gets the job done....great leader on off the field.
A vet CB is needed imo to help teach these young guys. Just hoping AJT can match the first round status and if so we good back there 

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The pass rush should be better, perhaps way better than last year depending on some guys who could provide impact this year who had virtually no impact last year. I'm talking about Takk of course, but also Means, Bailey, Charles Harris, young guys like Marlon Davidson, Cominsky, and Austin Larkin.

If we get significant sack stats from these guys, we could get to 40 sacks, which wouldn't lead the league but would be far better than we've had recently. That would of course help the young secondary immensely as well.

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I don't think they are any better, the same under sized crap they have been trying for over a decade. Fowler is a one hit wonder and even that year was not lights out. would be nice is Latu panned out due to his size but this team will just cut him and watch him be a space eater for another team.

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2 hours ago, MAD597 said:

I don't think they are any better, the same under sized crap they have been trying for over a decade. Fowler is a one hit wonder and even that year was not lights out. would be nice is Latu panned out due to his size but this team will just cut him and watch him be a space eater for another team.

I disagree with you on Fowler.

But i'd like to see Latu get a shot to make the practice squad, at least. Unfortunately, he's probably not going to get much of a chance to prove himself initially. 

Playing in the Mountain west also doesn't bode well for his readiness at the competition level, but after a couple years he could develop. He is a monster.

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 Cominsky prorated over 500 snaps would be 55 plus tackles 5 plus sacks and 10 PASS DEFENSED.

Mariner played like his hair was on fire.   Fowler is 25 with proven productivity.

Those 3 along with rookie Davidson present with more young DL upside this franchise has had in years.

 

 

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14 hours ago, red falcon said:

How is kazee gonna be in the box and play the middle of the field at the same time?🤷‍♂️

Yea, never understood the hate Kazee gets, you tell me another Safety in the league that can play in the box AND in the middle at the same time. Better yet, tell me another safety in the league that has cloned himself apparently like Kazee?  

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7 hours ago, 32wood84white said:

Yea, never understood the hate Kazee gets, you tell me another Safety in the league that can play in the box AND in the middle at the same time. Better yet, tell me another safety in the league that has cloned himself apparently like Kazee?  

Most of the hate comes from his hero ball antics in 2018. Sure he would get his 1 INT but he would also give up routine plays over and over again throughout the entire game because he is trying to play hero instead of just doing his job.

I felt he played more into what he should be doing and actually doing his job in 2019 and hopefully he will continue to get better. Either way he is probably walking after this year. 

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On 6/29/2020 at 8:05 PM, OrthoPTSD said:

 Cominsky prorated over 500 snaps would be 55 plus tackles 5 plus sacks and 10 PASS DEFENSED.

Mariner played like his hair was on fire.   Fowler is 25 with proven productivity.

Those 3 along with rookie Davidson present with more young DL upside this franchise has had in years.

As Fans we can all argue how good we'll be when everything works out. Harris COULD see his high first round potential. Takk could be a madman ON the field. Fowler could blossom due to chemistry with DQ. Davidson arrives pro-ready. Cominsky is a diamond in the rough. No one gets injured. But in reality not all that's going to happen, and we don't know which will or won't. All I'm hopeful for is to be in the top half of the league in important defensive stats. And that's all I think we need to be to make a serious playoff run with what our offense should be and has been.

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2 hours ago, jamesmasen said:

If we could somehow manage to get a 1 yr rental on another vet pass rusher and aqib talib would be so niceee.. if the injury bug shows up well need them

Yeah, not sure where this drivel is coming from that team needs to save it’s cap now for later if/when a player goes down. Grab the best you can now, all the good ones will be taken later on. 

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For guys like Takk & Cominsky as an example this is where the developmental cycle is important.You don’t need to see night and day change in most cases it’s details that need tidying up to see increased production.

Going from say 6 to 10 sacks to isn’t that hard if you sweat little details get more nuanced about your craft.This is the key coaching and the light turning on for a player.Then we’ll start seeing improvement everyone craves.

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2 hours ago, Vandy said:

Yeah, not sure where this drivel is coming from that team needs to save it’s cap now for later if/when a player goes down. Grab the best you can now, all the good ones will be taken later on. 

The problem there is they don't know who will go down at what position. 

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2 minutes ago, rugger8 said:

The problem there is they don't know who will go down at what position. 

Well, that's fair. 

 

Of course, the risk is high the virus is gonna hit some players, so your practice squad is going to have a higher than usual importance. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 7/2/2020 at 1:04 PM, Vandy said:

Yeah, not sure where this drivel is coming from that team needs to save it’s cap now for later if/when a player goes down. Grab the best you can now, all the good ones will be taken later on. 

Yep....now that our rookies are in the books we know what we have to work with.  The rookies counted less than 2 million against the CAP so we are left with a tad over 9 million to work with.  That’s plenty to help improve our team.  Could add Dennard and still have 4-5 mill left....or just use it all on Everson Griffen

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No guarantee that the team is improved at any of those positions. DL better. Have to prove it. Lost a cople of veteran contributors and added a rookie and UDA. I deffinately like Fawler over Beasley, but Fowler played next to the best DT in football. What will he do this year? LB doesn't look like an upgrade and it was already a weak spot before. Secondary looks weak. Safety is hanging on a guy that has had two big injuries two years in a row. Could be significantly reduced and another safety that is severly talent deficient and has only hung on to his starting spot by being smart. CB is not a strenght compared to other teams.

 

Defense could be a big problem yet again

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