Dean Pees’ résumé is as iron clad as any defensive coordinator in league history, winning Super Bowls with Baltimore and New England in that role. He also spent time in Tennessee, coordinating the Titans’ defense to some respectable seasons. Now, he’s in Atlanta and will be holding the Falcons to the same standard.
After finishing last or near last in every defensive metric, many pundits don’t expect Pees’ group to take a leap forward in 2022. The veteran coach went on a rant during training camp, where he noted the culture is changing and that people are going to start talking about the Atlanta defense like they did Baltimore and New England.
“We’re changing the culture around this dadgum place,” Pees said. “It’s not going to be mediocre. It’s not going to be average. It’s not going to be in the bottom half of the league like it’s been 15 of the last 20 years. I’m sick of that crap. We’ve got to take charge, and it’s not going to be anyone else to do it but us. I’m tired of everybody telling us how bad we are because after a while, you start believing it. Guys around here on defense sometimes believe 15th is okay or whatever. We’ve been in the Top 10 one time out of the last 20 years. That bullshit’s over. Sorry, I’m getting fired up today, but I’m tired of this crap. We’re going to change the culture of the defense around this frickin’ place. People are going to start talking about the Atlanta defense like they did Baltimore and New England. It’s going to be the same shit around here.”
Last season, the Falcons’ pass rush looked about as horrid as I’ve seen — putting up a measly 18 total sacks, the fewest by 11 and less than some individual players.
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%). Pees believes part of the reason for their 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.”
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 performed under expectations despite being the veteran leaders of the group.
The Falcons upgraded the defense in certain areas, but the familiarity with the system should provide more success, according to Pees. I have my doubts, though. The Falcons roster lacks 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.