Thanks to a haul of free agents, this is the best Falcons roster since Arthur Smith took over in Atlanta. However, no matter the external additions, there will never be sustainable success with internal development. The age old adage ‘draft and develop’ is a thing for a reason, and the Falcons need these youngsters to take steps forward. This continues my series exploring potential breakout candidates, moving on to Arnold Ebiketie.
Check out any other parts of the series if you’ve missed them!
- Falcons Breakout Candidates: Richie Grant
- Falcons Breakout Candidates: Troy Andersen
- Falcons Breakout Candidates: Drew Dalman
- Falcons Breakout Candidates: Jeff Okudah
- Falcons Breakout Candidates: Kaden Elliss
If there’s one area the Falcons have struggled to develop homegrown talent, it’s edge defenders. Obviously, most fans think Vic Beasley, which is the highest-drafted pass rusher in recent history and arguably one of the biggest busts in franchise history. Hopefully, Arnold Ebiketie’s career goes much differently.
The Penn State product posted 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. It certainly wasn’t the ideal rookie campaign, but he flashed and put up the third most hits on opposing signal callers for the team.
It is one of the most difficult positions to acclimate to the NFL, which is why star pass rushers are some of the highest-paid players in this league. He’ll develop physically, which is always important, but the mental process should improve. How he approaches the game cannot be understated and learning from Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Grady Jarrett, Bud Dupree and Lorenzo Carter will prove invaluable.
An interesting tidbit of Ebiketie’s potential breakout is the introduction of new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who comes over from New Orleans. The former Saints co-defensive coordinator has been heralded for his ability to develop pass rushers — i.e., third-rounder Trey Hendrickson, UDFA Carl Granderson, etc.
Hopefully, we will see some of that in Atlanta with AK-47 because there were glimpses last year. His best performance came in his lone start against the Bears, in which he posted six tackles, two for loss and a sack.
He was praised for his effort. Arthur Smith regularly said he thought the youngster improved each time out, especially with his pass rush approach, having a plan for every opportunity.
The 6-3, 256-pound Ebiketie is looking to put on more weight this offseason, but it’s the mental side of the game where he feels things are slowing down for him, which is where growth becomes exponential in this league.
Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire