The Falcons made several changes to the coaching staff in the wake of Dean Pees retiring. Ryan Nielsen will coordinate Atlanta’s defense after spending the last few years in New Orleans as the Saints’ co-defensive coordinator.
Nielsen has long had talented defensive talent, including All-Pro Cameron Jordan. The Falcons haven’t had that kind of personnel outside of Grady Jarrett. Thankfully, the team has the second-most cap space in the league this offseason and an arsenal of draft picks to bolster the roster. In my opinion, an influx of talent is necessary more so than schematics, but Nielsen’s expertise lies in the trenches, which Cam Jordan noted:
The first-time defensive coordinator spent every season working with the Saints’ defensive line since 2017. Over that period, New Orleans recorded 281 sacks, which is the second most in the NFL, finishing in the top 10 in sacks in five of the last six seasons. The Falcons have been on the exact opposite side of that spectrum.
The Falcons have totaled such an embarrassing amount of sacks over the last few years that it’s seemingly become an unfixable problem. No amount of creative scheme is going to overcome the lack of talent, and those who believe it can be fixed by just bolstering the trenches haven’t been watching close enough. The Falcons’ defense needs talent at all three levels. If the coverage isn’t good, no matter how fast the pass rush gets home, an NFL quarterback can get it out quicker.
To that point, no matter what Nielsen does with the defensive front until the Falcons’ run defense and pass coverage also improves, the pass rush will be uninspiring. I love the fact that Atlanta’s new defensive coordinator is best at developing defensive linemen, but he’ll have less time to focus on individuals when he’s responsible for the entire unit.
It’s encouraging to hear Cam Jordan’s high praise of Ryan Nielsen. I am cautiously optimistic, but the defense’s talent is still the biggest obstacle in manufacturing a reliable pass rush.