Falcons: Time to move to a 3-4 defense

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Nobody knows who the next man in charge of the Falcons will be, but one thing can’t be disputed — major changes need to happen on the defensive side of the ball. I’ve already profiled how well Atlanta’s linebackers played in 2020, and Mykal Walker made PFF’s All-Rookie Team. No matter what happens, EDGE is going to be a huge need on defense for the Falcons in the draft — and they will probably have to double or even triple-dip, especially if Dante Fowler Jr and Allen Bailey are cut as I predicted. In that same article, I also predicted Tyeler Davison is let go. Deadrin Senat was good in limited action.

I wrote an article way back when the Falcons actually had a prayer at the postseason, and while the defense improved under Raheem Morris, a lot of the points still stand:

In a 3-4, the focus is placed on linebackers getting to the quarterback … Jarrett would be placed in more of a Fletcher Cox type role. Marlon Davidson is a hulking man, standing at 6’4 and 303 pounds. He isn’t a pure nose tackle, and bigger defensive ends are preferred in a 3-4 to eat up space … I quite like Mykal Walker so far — he’s earned some more snaps, especially with the team looking towards the future. There are some pieces that could make this work, but the draft will be very telling.

Let’s assume Dante Fowler and Tyeler Davison are both cap casualties. In my dream offseason plan, I had Jacob Tuioti-Mariner returning on a cheap contract. That would leave the core of the front seven roughly looking like:

EDGE: John Cominsky
DL: Marlon Davidson, Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat
LB: Foyesade Oluokun, Mykal Walker, Deion Jones

 

Surely guys will be brought in on cheap deals, but this is still a very top-heavy and unproven group. Marlon Davison and Deadrin Senat have barely played, and while I like John Cominsky — it’s the same for him. Even if Atlanta doesn’t trade back from 4 (which I think they should), the draft consists of a deep offensive and defensive line class.

If you can get talented off the ball linebackers like Micah Parsons, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, or Zaven Collins when you trade back or a hellish EDGE like Azeez Ojulari or Gregory Rousseau — a 3-4 makes way too much sense. The defensive line as a whole would work; you need to plug some guys who can create pressure at that 3-4 outside linebacker spot.

Like I mentioned already, this is not a position where you take one player, and you’re done. Atlanta picking at No. 4 should result in multiple talented players added to the Front seven while still improving in other areas. Coming away with two or three EDGE/linebacker prospects should make this transition very easy, and there are some game wreckers in this class.

Whatever combination of acquisitions Atlanta has done in the Matt Ryan era simply hasn’t worked. He’s only had a top 10 defense once, and that was in 2017. AJ Terrell has shown many flashes, and while secondary (especially safety) will be a need again — I think getting some pressure in a 3-4 scheme would go a long way in helping them out anyway.

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