Falcons rookie pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie continues promising start

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If you polled Falcons fans about the team’s biggest weakness over the last decade, I’d bet my bottom dollar pass rush would be at the top of the results. Atlanta just hasn’t had a consistent pass rusher since John Abraham. After posting a league-low 18 sacks a year ago, Terry Fontenot overhauled the EDGE position — signing Lorenzo Carter in free agency and drafting Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone.

Unfortunately, the pass rush hasn’t improved as the team had probably hoped. The Falcons defense as a whole is one of the worst groups in the league, and the lack of pass rush is a significant contributing factor. Fontenot traded up for the Penn State product in the second round of the draft, so there are certainly more expectations riding Ebiketie compared to Malone. And though the box score won’t show a pretty picture — Ebikeite has totaled just one sack — the rookie is still off to a promising start.

His best performance came against the Niners, in which he totaled five quarterback pressures, including two quarterback hits and his first career forced fumble. At that time, the five pressures were the most for a rookie this season. On the season, Ebiketie has 19 total pressures, which is the third most among rookie edge defenders.

It might not be the sexiest thing to compile a bunch of pressures. However, where there is smoke, there is fire. Those pressures will turn into sacks eventually. And in football, it’s not all about stats. Pressures affect opposing passers, which could lead to a failed third down conversion or turnover, which is more valuable than a sack.

Ebiketie is undoubtedly a naturally talented pass rusher. His speed rush is already efficient at getting to the quarterback; if (and when) he better refines and expands his pass rush arsenal, Ebiektie will become that much more effective and consistent.

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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