Falcons need more pass rush, Arthur Smith points out potential source

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It feels like beating a dead horse when talking about the Falcons’ pass rush. For as long as I can remember, the club has hit on more draft picks on the offensive side of the ball. The acquirement of players who can pressure opposing quarterbacks consistently has just been pitiful. And last season, the unit looked about as horrid as I’ve ever seen — putting up a measly 18 total sacks, the fewest by 11 and less than some individual players.

Arthur Smith particularly pointed out the interior pass rush being an area that needs improving and even named a specific player, though I’d argue the edge defenders weren’t much better last season, if at all.

“Somebody needs to step up,” Smith said. “Nick Thurman has a shot. We’ve got to get some more interior pass rush.”

Thurman initially went undrafted in 2018 before being signed by the Houston Texans. However, after not making the roster, the University of Houston product sat out the entire season. He later caught on with the Buccaneers and Patriots but only played sparingly in reserve roles, bouncing back and forth from the practice squad and active roster.

Most recently, Thurman has been stashed away on Atlanta’s practice squad, where he was from October until the team’s Week 17 matchup against the Bills. In that contest, Thurman only played 17 snaps but did log a tackle and quarterback hit.

The guy is clearly dedicated to playing football. I mean, he sat out an entire season after graduating college but has come back to battle to be on practice squads. It’s a remarkable story. He has a never-give-up attitude, which you have to be as an interior defender in this league. And maybe he can be a valuable rotational player in 2022.

But Dean Pees’ defense isn’t going to hinge on Nick Thurman breaking out next to Grady Jarrett this season. It’s not going to be good. Sure, they may surprise some people, but more often than not, they’ll be at the bottom of the league by most metrics.

They’re incredibly young and inexperienced in a notoriously difficult system to learn. Pees believes part of the reason for the Falcons’ struggles was that he couldn’t run the entire playbook, because some couldn’t pick it up.

“I kind of know [that] the guys that are back kind of know what to expect,” Pees said, 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.”

The Falcons aren’t going to be an awe-inspiring team when it comes to their record. The pass rush should improve with the influx of talent brought in this offseason, but it will only be marginal. It’s cool to see some transparency with Smith, but I don’t know if Nick Thurman is going to solve the Falcons’ problems.

Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

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