Falcons new DC on Atlanta’s anemic pass rush: “We’ll get it going”

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The Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen to replace the recently retired Dean Pees. After spending the last several years in New Orleans, the former Saints co-defensive coordinator will now call plays in Atlanta.

Coming from a defense rich in talent, Nielsen might have to turn water into wine if the front office doesn’t allocate significant resources to that side of the ball. 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, so that should be noted.

The first-time defensive coordinator spent every season working with the Saints’ defensive line since 2017. Over that period, New Orleans has 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. And if there’s one facet of this team that needs to improve more than any other, it’s the pass rush.

In his introductory press conference, Nielsen spoke on the subject: “We’ll get it going”

It was a short response and one that wasn’t exactly inspiring. But what is he supposed to say? Every single member of the organization has said the exact same thing in variations. Dean Pees notoriously stated people would start respecting this defense in 2022; that didn’t happen. And I don’t expect the 2000 Ravens in 2023, but marginal improvement would be welcomed.

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 an influx of 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.

This is nothing against Nielsen, either. I hope he resurrects a lifeless defense, but I have my reservations until some serious investment goes into that side of the ball.

Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

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