Somehow, Arthur Smith strung together 14 wins across his first two seasons with some pretty pathetic rosters. Now, the Falcons have a playoff-caliber group following a busy offseason.
Through the draft, free agency, and other acquisitions, the roster is in a better position now than ever before in the new regime’s tenure. The Falcons have postseason aspirations, and it’s not crazy to expect them to win the division because the NFC South is by far the weakest in football.
Most of those improvements came on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the trenches. The defensive line has long been a one-man wrecking crew thanks to Grady Jarrett. That is no longer the case.
Jarrett got some help from Ta’Quon Graham last year, and the Texas product’s impact was apparent. In 11 weeks, Graham only logged six quarterback pressures, but Jarrett notched 5.5 of his 6.0 sacks and 10 of his 12 tackles for loss in that period, recording only 0.5 sacks and two tackles for loss over the final six games without Graham in the lineup.
What’s most exciting is Ta’Quon Graham will now assume a reserve role with the additions of David Onyemata and Calais Campbell. The Falcons interior defensive line is one of the best in the league and ESPN dubbed it a unit to watch.
Two-time Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett is the notable incumbent and anchor of this group. Six-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell is 36 years old but is fresh off another strong season and will work from the edge and inside. New defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen brought David Onyemata over from New Orleans, and he’ll play a substantial role. This is a big upgrade for a defense that was 29th in EPA last season.
That doesn’t even mention the impressive training camp of Zach Harrison and UDFA Timmy Horne’s run-stuffing ability he showed last year. Joe Gaziano is also a very capable depth piece. The Falcons’ interior defensive line is a strength and quite possibly the most valuable unit on the entire roster.
Photographer: Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire