The Atlanta Falcons’ largest flaw is their ability to get to the opposing quarterback, and this is well-known throughout the NFL. The Falcons only had 22 sacks last year. Kroy Biermann had the most sacks on the team in the 2014 season with only 4.5 sacks. Just so you guys know, Justin Houston had the same amount of sacks last year as the entire Falcons team. That is either really sad for Atlanta, really incredible for Houston, or both. With Jason-Pierre Paul and Justin Houston being franchise-tagged earlier today, I want to give you my top pass-rushing play-makers still available on the open market that the Falcon’s organization should go after.
1) Jerry Hughes
Jerry Hughes knows how to make his way to the quarterback, plain and simple. Standing at 6’2” and weighing 254 pounds, Hughes is powerful, quick, and violent, which is everything a team could ask for. He totaled 19.5 sacks in his past two years while playing in Buffalo. In the past three years, Hughes has not missed a game. Last year, the defensive end played 782 snaps and had 9.5 sacks. His first step off the ball is so quick that he can beat offensive tackles before they can even look up. Hughes was double-teamed during games, which opens up lanes for his teammates. At 26-years old, a guy like Hughes has loads of talent and could be Atlanta’s savior at the defensive end position.
2) Brandon Graham
He may not be a household name, but Brandon Graham is a target people have been sleeping on. He had a rough start to his career with injuries, but he has not missed a game in the past three seasons. Graham’s sack total in the past year might not stand out to you, but he knows how to get pressure on the quarterback. In the past three seasons for the Eagles, he has totaled 7-forced fumbles while totaling 14-sacks. Graham is best suited to play in a 4-3 scheme, and with new head coach Dan Quinn at the helm, Graham’s numbers can only rise.
3) Pernell McPhee
With the likes of Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Courtney Upshaw, a player like Pernell McPhee can be overlooked. Having started zero games in the 2014 campaign, McPhee totaled 7.5 sacks. Let me repeat that one more time, he did not start a single game and had more sacks than any Falcon! With other teams knowing the Ravens do not have the cap room to re-sign him, McPhee will be heavily targeted during free agency. If you do not remember who McPhee is, go look at last years game tape when the Falcons played the Ravens. Having played with incredible players like Suggs and Dumervil is a big plus because these two have been well-known sack artists during their time in the NFL. I expect McPhee will get around $7-8 million per year, so if the front office is comfortable with him, sign him.
4) Greg Hardy
I put this man at number four because there are so many questions looming on this pass-rusher. Greg Hardy appeared in one game in the 2014 campaign after being suspended by the league for the year. Do not let a suspension fool you, as Greg Hardy is the real deal. Standing at a massive 6’4” and with a 275 pound frame, Hardy had 15 sacks in the 2013 season and 11 sacks in 2012. Known as “The Krackon,” he has only missed two games in his four-year career, excluding the 2014 season. Hardy can run through you, around you, under you, and over you. Basically, Hardy can run where he wants. Hardy’s future still is uncertain with his suspension, but he is someone a team will take a chance on. With high risk, there is high reward. Hardy is a man among boys and I believe if the Falcons sign him and his suspension is lifted, he there is no stopping him.
Targets I want Atlanta to stay away from:
Please Atlanta, do not sign this man. Brian Orakpo is a good guy and he was a solid pass rusher, but look at recent history. He has torn his pectoral muscle 2 out of the past 3 years, which sidelined him for both of those years. Do not believe in the hype on this guy because, if you cannot stay healthy, you are no good. You don’t believe me? Take a look at our left tackle Sam Baker and tell me what you think of him. Teams will throw a good amount of money at Orakpo, and I hope Atlanta will not be one of those teams.