It is no secret the Falcons need to pressure opposing quarterbacks more in a dramatic way. Dante Fowler Jr. was brought in last year to help generate some of that pressure, but he failed to deliver. Regardless of what fans think, Fowler will be on this team next year, and with a new defensive coordinator who schemes pressure better than his last, his play should improve.
The Falcons still need to bolster the defensive front, especially with Dean Pees as defensive coordinator, with interior and exterior defenders. Drafting one or two edge defenders while also signing a veteran in free agency will help Fowler and the defense as a whole. Someone like Bud Dupree isn’t going to completely turn around the Falcons pass rush, but he can be a building block to an improved defense.
Dupree is coming off seasons recording 11.5 and eight sacks in 2019 and 2020. This past season he recorded those eight sacks in only 11 games due to a torn ACL in early December. Even though his injury occurred late in the season, Dupree says he’ll be ready for training camp for whichever team he signs with. “I’m feeling great right now,” Dupree said. “I’m ahead of schedule in rehab. It’s a great thing as always; it’s a blessing. I’m on track. And I’m going to be ready for camp. It’s a blessing to take the small things from a big injury like there was, and just know that I’m still able to perform next season.” If he can return to 90% of what he was in 2020, Dupree will be worth a one-year contract.
Only guy who has managed to block Bud Dupree this year might be TJ Watt. Collision probably cost Bud a sack. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/okIzRRiPIB
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 23, 2020
Dupree has experience in a similar defense that Pees runs, as he was apart of a blitz-happy Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. His 77.7 overall grade in 2019 was 23rd among all edge rushers, according to PFF. He was on pace to top his 2019 sack total, but the injury ruined a certain career-high in sacks. He’s also not just a pass-rushing edge; his rush-defense might’ve been just as good as when rushing the passer. The guy has an incredible motor that shows up in the run game and when quarterbacks extend passing plays.
These are the plays Bud Dupree made weekly that'll be hard to consistently replace. 2nd snap of the game. Set the edge, shed the TE, make the tackle for a one yard gain. Complete player, not just a pass rusher. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/E8WSxvM2Vr
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 3, 2020
The notion that Dupree’s sack totals are from quarterbacks holding the ball longer than the play called for could be true; I really don’t remember his specific sacks in the games I watched. What I do remember was the consistent pressure he was able to apply with someone like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt lining up next to him. The Falcons have a ways to go to replicate the interior pressure Heyward and Tuitt are able to produce. Still, Grady Jarrett is as good as either of the aforementioned Steelers; Terry Fontenot just needs to find him a mate on the interior. The Falcons just need Fowler to produce even half of what his contract is paying him to, and it’ll lighten the load of the others rushing the passer, i.e., Dupree.
The Steelers run a similar 3-4 hybrid that Pees deploys, so schematically, Dupree wouldn’t be asked to do something he hasn’t already. Fowler needs to improve drastically, and someone like Dupree would thrive in Atlanta. The Falcons can’t depend on just Dupree; drafting another two edge defenders — one early and one late in the draft — would make me feel more comfortable. Dupree isn’t going to break the bank either. According to PFF, he’s supposed to garner a one-year deal worth $10,000,000. With multiple restructured contracts, this would be very possible. Instead of giving someone like Fowler a multi-year deal, a one-year rental is much more Fontenot-esque.
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