Free agent signings shine bright in their Falcons debut

NFL: SEP 10 Panthers at Falcons

For the first time in quite a while, the Falcons were able to participate in free agency without financial limitations, and the results were a star-studded class, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Those new faces shined bright in their debuts too.

David Onyemata was one that was especially exciting because it gave Grady Jarrett the best interior defender of his career. Against the Panthers, Onyemata logged the fourth-highest pass rush win rate among defensive tackles. He looked solid against the run and gave the Falcons defensive front a much-needed boost.

Kaden Elliss didn’t pop off the screen but did log nine total tackles and did his job more than adequately. I didn’t see him get many pass rush opportunities, which is his strength, so that should be a focus moving forward. Along with Onyemata and our next free agent signing, Elliss was among the Falcons leaders in PFF grades on the defensive side of the ball — David Onyemata (89.8) and Kaden Elliss (79.7).

The most impressive player on the field for both teams was Jessie Bates III, who was the highest-graded player from Sunday’s contest. I actually can’t remember a better Falcons debut. Bates logged a pair of interceptions and passes defended to go along with forcing a fumble and double-digit tackles.

The Falcons would likely be sitting here 0-1 without Jessie Bates III. He’s by far the best defensive signing of the entire offseason and maybe for the franchise outside of John Abraham. The investment has immediately paid off for the club.

Hopefully, we get to see more of Calais Campbell’s impact in the form of sacks, but he held his own, contributing in the run game. Still, the biggest takeaway from Week 1 was Jessie Bates’ immediate impact. He’s playing like a Defensive Player of the Year right now.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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