Falcons DC Ryan Nielsen on the defensive line rotation moving forward

NFL: SEP 10 Panthers at Falcons

The Falcons defense showed some chops in Week 1 under first year defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, a stark contrast from where they were a season ago.

The newly acquired Jessie Bates III was the star of the show, racking up 10 tackles and forcing three turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble — on his way to NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Kaden Elliss also performed admirably in his first game as a Falcons, and the defensive front had moments where they looked like they could be a more than formidable group, particularly along the interior. David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett were a load for the Panthers offensive front to handle, and makingĀ Bryce Young‘s job very difficult.

The Falcons pass rush was the talk of the offseason coming into Week 1. They spent a ton of cap space bolstering the group, finally giving Grady Jarrett some assistance for the first time in his career. However, it’s not just the starting unit that had many encouraged coming into the season. With the addition of top end talent, it allowed for starters from last season to assume reserve roles, giving the Falcons defensive line depth that hasn’t been apparent in over a decade.

In Week 1, the starters received about two-thirds of the snaps while the reserves accounted for the rest. However, Ryan Nielsen hopes for that to change as the season progresses to more of a 50-50 split.

In a perfect Utopia, this sounds like a splendid idea, and for another team, it might be possible. Having a defensive line eight guys deep that are all capable of rushing the passer is the dream. Unfortunately, that’s not what Nielsen has at his disposal.

As some of the reserves get more reps and prove themselves, they may start receiving increased opportunities. But right now, most of them are unproven. Keeping your best defensive linemen fresh for four quarters is an often overlooked part of elite defenses, but I have a hard time believing we will ever see the starters and reserves splitting snaps 50-50, not this year at least.

Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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