The Falcons made several franchise-altering moves this offseason. They traded away Matt Ryan, who has been the team’s signal caller for over a decade. Then, shortly after, the Falcons landed his potential successor in Desmond Ridder. They also extended Grady Jarrett and Jake Matthews while cutting bait with the rest of the bloated contracts from the previous regime outside of Deion Jones. There are plenty of moves that could be designated as the team’s ‘best,’ but PFF had an interesting choice. Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus believes the selection of second-round pick Arnold Ebiketie was the best offseason move.
The Falcons comfortably had the league’s worst edge rush group in 2021, generating just 67 quarterback pressures, almost 30 fewer than the next-worst team. They registered only 8.5 total sacks, also a league low, and earned the lowest grade of any edge defender unit with a 50.9 mark.
Enter Ebiketie, who had multiple quarterback pressures in every game he played in in 2021 after transferring to Penn State from Temple. The step up in competition with his move to the Big Ten didn’t faze him, earning a 90.5 pass-rush grade with a 22.9% pass-rush win rate.
Atlanta needed more pass-rush juice alongside recently extended interior defender Grady Jarrett, and Ebiketie is a good start.
The Penn State product is one of the most exciting draft selections in recent years because the Falcons have been an abysmal pass rushing team for the last decade. The Falcons completely revamped the edge unit this offseason, signing Lorenzo Carter and drafting DeAngelo Malone and Ebiketie. The only returning player is Ade Ogundeji. Ebiketie will have every opportunity to be a difference-maker because the group is incredibly thin. The Falcons traded up in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft for him, so the folks inside the building clearly feel Ebiketie is the future premier pass rusher in Atlanta.
Photographer: Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire
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