The Falcons haven’t had a consistent pass rush in years, and it hasn’t been a revelation this season but looks to be on the up and up. Atlanta completely revamped the defensive front over the last couple offseasons. Terry Fontenot drafted Ade Ogundeji in his first season at the helm, then doubled up in his second draft with Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. In the same offseason, Fontenot went out and signed Lorenzo Carter. The pass rush isn’t exactly a top-ten unit but is headed in the right direction. And a big reason for that is the Penn State product.
The Falcons traded up in the second round to acquire Ebiketie, and it looks like it was a wise decision. On the team, he ranks third in sacks and quarterback hits, with Grady Jarrett leading the Falcons in both categories. And the rookie is coming off the best game of his short career. Ebiketie totaled five quarterback pressures, including two quarterback hits and his first-career forced fumble. The five pressures were tied for the most by a rookie pass rusher in a game this entire season, according to the team’s website. And the other player tied for first place? Ebiketie.
Moreover, he leads all rookie defenders with 18 quarterback pressures through six weeks, per the team’s site. And it’s the fourth-most by a rookie through six weeks since 2016 — Nick Bosa (23), Odafe Oweh (22), and Josh Allen (20). His six quarterback hits are tied for the most among rookie pass rushers with Aiden Hutchinson.
Ebiketie was always the more refined pass rusher coming out of college, but his draft classmate DeAngelo Malone is flashing too, just not as regularly as Ebiketie. He might not become Von Miller, but he’s shown some next-level stuff as a pass rusher. Once he diversifies his arsenal and improves his consistency, the Falcons will have a reliable edge rusher.
Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire