Tell me if you’ve heard this before: “The pass rush is going to be a point of emphasis for the Falcons this offseason.” Well, Arthur Smith is beating that dead horse, telling reporters once again, the team will be addressing the pass rush this offseason.
Arthur Smith said a "huge point of emphasis this offseason" will be in generating a more significant pass rush. And that goes beyond the OLB position, it's in the interior, too.
— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) December 28, 2022
Last season, the Falcons put up a measly 18 total sacks, the fewest by 11 and less than some individual players — T.J. Watt and Robert Quinn. The entire unit stunk. Atlanta’s defense ranked near the bottom of the league in most metrics — 29th in points per game (27.0), 26th in yards allowed (6,194), and 30th in third down success rate (48.4%).
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees believed that part of the reason for his unit’s struggles was that he couldn’t run the entire playbook.
“I kind of know [that] the guys that are back kind of know what to expect,” Pees said before the season, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You know what we’re really looking for. Last year, I’d say we put in, at the end of the year, maybe 60 percent of the defense that we really want to run. This year, it’s going to be 100 percent.”
However, with two games left, the Falcons still haven’t improved despite that notion. Atlanta ranks 23rd in the league in points per game (23.3), 28th in yards per game (373), and 30th in third down conversion rate (46.43%). And the sack total is equally disappointing.
Granted, only the Bears are spending fewer cap dollars than the Falcons on the defensive side of the ball. Atlanta is allocating just under $40 million total, 19.21% of the cap, and $1,598,932 per player on the defense this season.
A large reason for the lack of investment is because of the Falcons’ messy salary cap situation, so Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot, and Dean Pees shouldn’t be too heavily scrutinized for the defense’s shortcomings. But if these issues persist through the 2023 season, then we can start making more sweeping judgments.
Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire
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