Are Falcons defensive shortcomings due to Dean Pees only calling 60% of playbook?


The Falcons had one of the worst defenses in the entire league last season, which was ran by Dean Pees. The unit notoriously tallied 18 sacks, which was the fewest in the league by 11. Moreover, individual players like T.J. Watt and Robert Quinn posted more sacks than Atlanta’s defense did as a whole.

They ranked near the bottom of the league in most defensive metrics — 29th in points per game (27.0), 26th in yards allowed (6,194), and 30th in third down success rate (48.4%). Dean Pees believes part of the reason for the Falcons struggles was that he couldn’t run the entire playbook.

“I kind of know [that] the guys that are back kind of know what to expect,” Pees said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You know what we’re really looking for. Last year, I’d say we put in, at the end of the year, maybe 60 percent of the defense that we really want to run. This year, it’s going to be 100 percent.”

Richie Grant is infamous around Falcons circles because he was unable to grasp the mental side of the game quick enough to get on the field. It seems the entire defense from last season struggled to pick up on the scheme because Pees only deployed 60% of the entire playbook.

However, I think it’s much simpler than that. The Falcons’ defense was terrible last year because the personnel was terrible, not because of Dean Pees’ scheme. Outside of A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett, Atlanta’s talent was non-existent on that side of the ball. Dante Fowler, Deion Jones, Fabian Moreau, Erik Harris, Duron Harmon, etc. all played like reserve players despite being the veteran leaders of the group.

The Falcons upgraded the defense in certain areas — Casey Hayward and Eddie Goldman, in particular — but the familiarity with the system should provide more success, according to Pees. I have my doubts, though. The Falcons roster is lacking talent and depth everywhere; understanding the scheme better will certainly improve results, but it’s not going to be a top ten unit in 2022 by any means.

Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

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