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Defensive improvement feels like something we can bank on for the Falcons in 2022 

Atlanta’s not going to offer up a great defense in 2022, but there’s really nowhere to go but up. 

By Dave Choate  Jun 26, 2022, 12:00pm EDT  
 

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta FalconsPhoto by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

 

I’ve been burned so many times by the Falcons defense, which often feels like it’s a couple of additions and some growth away from being solid. All too often, what we get is a crabwalk sideways—maybe the coverage takes a step forward, but the pass rush takes a step backward—or cratering either minor or major. The last time you were justified in thinking this defense was going to be terrific was from 2016 to 2017, honestly.

This year, though, I’m ready to throw my singed hat back in the ring and say it again: We’re going to see an improved Falcons defense in 2022. 

The Falcons allowed the 7th highest number of yards in 2021, and were tied for the 3rd most points allowed. They had a league low number of sacks, the 6th-highest number of rushing yards allowed, and the 3rd highest penalty total in the entire NFL. They were abysmal in basically everything you can be abysmal in except plays over 40 yards—they memorably did not allow one all year—and passing yards allowed, where they were middle of the pack. It was an awful defense scraping bottom on talent outside of the team’s tiny handful of stars and a couple of promising young players, and only the offense’s shakiness rescued them from being the focus of our ire all year long.

Expecting improvement from this defense is more than just wishful thinking, if only because that was a pretty rock bottom effort. The Falcons replaced Steven Means, Deion Jones, Brandon Copeland, and others who didn’t have much luck rushing the passer with promising Lorenzo Carter and two interesting rookies, likely putting the pass rush in a better place than it was a year ago. Carter notably had more sacks for the Giants in the final few games of the season than any one Falcon had in all of last year. The defensive line, while not entirely restocked, will have what I fully expect to be an improved Ta’Quon Graham to go with solid additions like Vincent Taylor. 

There’s cause for optimism at inside linebacker and in the secondary, too. Casey Heyward is replacing Fabian Moreau opposite A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver hopefully has a full healthy season in front of him, and the additions at inside linebacker and along the defensive line are all solid enough. Jaylinn Hawkins was not entirely healthy a year ago and Richie Grant hardly played, but it goes without saying that they have more upside than Erik Harris (who is still around as a fallback option) and an older version of Duron Harmon. Couple all of this with Dean Pees entering his second season as defensive coordinator and vowing to implement more of the defense and it’s hard to see how this defense could not take at least a modest step forward. 

I’m not counting on an elite defense this year, or in the immediate future. I am counting on real defensive improvement this year for the Falcons, and it’s hard to overstate how much more enjoyable this team will be to watch when we get it.

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The two questions to be answered are ~ can this new group rush the passer, and can this group play Pees' aggressive scheme with the cohesiveness to make it work.

I believe the raw talent is there now. If not to break out, at least break through the Wall of Helplessness it's been mired in for so long it seems like forever.

We have a top-drawer DC, a hardworking group of guys. We ought to end the season around 10 spots higher in overall defensive stats like yards and points allowed. Looking forward to watching this D grow into Beast Mode. 

 

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Just now, Ergo Proxy said:

I think if every move this offseason is a hit and year 2-3 players play well? Might mess around and be average. It’ll help a lot if the offense can help control TOP as the young defense gets its footing.

I have way more faith that we will be a Time of Possession type team(we seem to be building the roster that way) as to us hitting on EVERY move. 

I doubt that will ever happen in any situation.

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4 minutes ago, Ezekiel 25:17 said:

I have way more faith that we will be a Time of Possession type team(we seem to be building the roster that way) as to us hitting on EVERY move. 

I doubt that will ever happen in any situation.

Yep, an offense that can move the ball and run clock is an asset to any defensive improvement.

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40 minutes ago, Mid-Nite-Toker said:

Yep, an offense that can move the ball and run clock is an asset to any defensive improvement.

I think that will be the biggest reason we move up significantly, if we do. 

That along with it being the second year for a lot of the players as well as a little bit more talent, we should be a better defensive team.

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3 hours ago, PokerSteve said:

The two questions to be answered are ~ can this new group rush the passer, and can this group play Pees' aggressive scheme with the cohesiveness to make it work.

I believe the raw talent is there now. If not to break out, at least break through the Wall of Helplessness it's been mired in for so long it seems like forever.

We have a top-drawer DC, a hardworking group of guys. We ought to end the season around 10 spots higher in overall defensive stats like yards and points allowed. Looking forward to watching this D grow into Beast Mode. 

 

Typically pass rushers don’t really show their true upside until second year unless they are very high first rounders, but even our two rookies will do better than anything what we had last year and get sacks and pressures.  Then add Carter, with heat coming off the edges it will give Grady more 1 on 1 situations.

I can see this defense much better this year, and by following year it could be really good.

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8 hours ago, Ergo Proxy said:

I think if every move this offseason is a hit and year 2-3 players play well? Might mess around and be average. It’ll help a lot if the offense can help control TOP as the young defense gets its footing.

To me, our season rises or falls to the offensive line play.  If they suck, we are about where we were last season.  Have to maintain TOP, being able to run the ball effectively and give MM more than three seconds.  If they can do that, we should be better overall.

 

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Look, I believe we have more potential now for sure. 
But I am very cautious with my hopes for this year. Hayward is an improvement, but Moreau wasn’t the problem last year. 
Other than that it’s mostly hope for development within the 2021 class. I don’t expect too much from the rookie pass rushers this early in their careers since they weren’t top picks for a reason. Same thing with Troy Andersen who I see more of a guy to develop, not only because he didn’t play for an FBS school. 

It will be exciting to watch which players took a step forward and which ones play well off the gate. But the results won’t be overwhelming this year. 

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We need to get Grady Jarrett back to being that run stopping TFL monster he was a few years back.The disruption KING.He’s been paid to do so this is really what we need our defensive leader getting back to his self.

Everyone else follows.

We need our defensive leaders to be exactly that and you get draft picks improving and cashing in off the back of it.

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On 6/26/2022 at 9:58 PM, Ergo Proxy said:

I think if every move this offseason is a hit and year 2-3 players play well? Might mess around and be average. It’ll help a lot if the offense can help control TOP as the young defense gets its footing.

I just hope we can stop the run. If we can get offenses in passing situations by stopping the run on 1st and 2nd downs,  we can unleash the new attack dogs we brought in. Grady will get more chances when offenses have to protect from the new edge rushers. Our secondary is better, allowing us to mix up blitz packages  I then see us dramatically lowering the 3rd down conversions we kept giving up last year, allowing the offense to get back on the field. 
 

I also think we are going to add another run stuffing DT to the mix before preseason. I like big old Anthony Rush, but we need another one.

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Looking at what the Hawks are doing, it got me to thinking about all of our major teams here.

 

UGA, with the hiring of Kirby Smart, made the necessary commitments to him and his vision for Georgia football. They invested heavily on him too, and it payed off big time.

The Braves and Alex Anthopoulos decided to not lay down after major injuries, but instead, reinvest in the squad mid season and come away with the ultimate prize.

The Hawks were 2 games away from the finals 2 years ago and fell backwards last season. Tony Ressler vowed to dig in and build around his assets, showing the entire NBA that Atlanta is dead serious about being a major and respected contender in the East. Djontae  Murry INSTANTLY improved the back court and possibly taking Trae Young off the ball to be free to pop open and drill like Steph Curry.

These past 2 off seasons, particularly this one, the Falcons have made it clear that they are about the business of building a monster. QUIETLY! It is not lost on me that AS and TF are low key alphas who get a thrill out of outsmarting everyone. When the y talk on camera, their words say normal football stuff, but their eyes scream disrespected, overlooked and underestimated with an "I'll show you" squint.

 

I believe that winning is trending here and the next decade will prove it to be true. 

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