Is the Falcons pass rush sustainable?

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While the Falcons secondary did not show up last Sunday, the defensive line — particularly the pass rush — did. They took advantage of a shoddy Seattle offensive line, racking up three sacks and pressuring Russell Wilson on over a third of his dropbacks.

Per Pro-Football-Reference (via Matt Karoly), the Falcons pressured Wilson on 35.9% of his pass attempts. That number is good for best in the entire NFL, something I’d never thought I’d say about Atlanta’s pass rush under Dan Quinn. Takk McKinley was a large part of that, racking up 7 of the 14 pressures, second only to Chris Jones.

And according to PFF, those numbers are even higher. They had the Falcons pressuring Wilson on 41% of his dropbacks.

That’s quite encouraging for an organization that has not been inside the top-ten in the sack department since 2004. However, was this just a flash in the pan, or is this something the Falcons can sustain throughout the 2020 campaign?

That question is tough to answer for various reasons. Most importantly, it’s only Week 1, and it’s never wise to overreact to a one-week sample size in the NFL, especially Week 1. On top of that, there was no preseason, and there were a couple of factors in the Falcons vs. Seahawks matchup working against each other, as far as determining whether this pass rush is sustainable.

From Atlanta’s perspective, they should feel like they could have had way more sacks. They only had three despite recording 14 pressures, and their defensive line seemed to wear a bit as the game went on. A lot of that had to due with an abysmal performance from the Falcons secondary.

Far too many times, was Russell Wilson able to look at his first option and make a quick, easy pass to a wide-open receiver. The secondary was clearly discombobulated, playing a lot like they did at the beginning of last season. Hopefully, that was a result of the Falcons implementing a young group of cornerbacks without any preseason games and not a sign of things to come. If the former is the case, Atlanta’s pass rush might look even better as the season goes on.

It’s also worth noting that Russell Wilson’s elusiveness makes him one of — if not — the most difficult quarterbacks to sack. That’s another positive sign for the Falcons pass rush moving forward. However, as I mentioned in the open, Atlanta was also facing one of the league’s worst offensive lines.

For years, the Seahawks have had an abysmal offensive line. It’s almost as if they recognized Wilson’s ability to escape pressure and said, “Screw it! He can get out of everything. Let’s spend our money elsewhere.” It’s a somewhat puzzling ideology, considering how valuable Wilson is to the organization. Still, it’s one they have obviously embraced, judging by how little emphasis they have placed on improving their offensive line.

According to a PFF article written after this year’s draft, the Seahawks offensive line ranked 28th in the NFL — ahead of only the Washington Football Team, Chargers, Bengals, and Dolphins. That is miserable company, and it would have been embarrassing had the Falcons not been able to generate some semblance of pressure on Wilson.

As a whole, you have to give Atlanta’s pass rush credit. Even if the Seahawks have the worst offensive line, leading the league in pressure rate is an encouraging sign. That’s not sustainable; the Falcons don’t have an elite defensive line, but there are enough reasons to believe this will be the best pass rush of the Dan Quinn era.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire



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