Raheem Morris likens pair of Falcons to Aaron Donald

NFL: SEP 10 Panthers at Falcons

The Falcons signaled to their fans and the rest of the league that their window to compete opened when Kirk Cousins signed for $180 million.

Arthur Smith didn’t have much expectations, which he somehow didn’t meet and was fired, but his predecessor doesn’t have the same luxury. Raheem Morris took over in Atlanta and immediately inherited expectations to win.

But with Kirk Cousins in the fold, expecting improvement isn’t good enough. With a veteran like Cousins, Arthur Blank is expecting a postseason berth and probably even more.

To do that, the Falcons have to upgrade the defense. Right now, it would be good enough if Atlanta’s goal was just to make the playoffs, but their goals should be higher. Therefore, improvement is needed.

Morris acknowledged as much during the owner’s meetings, telling reporters that the Falcons need to bolster the cornerback and edge units, the latter of which is more pressing, in my opinion.

Later, when asked about adding an established pass rusher, Morris hedged a bit, pointing out the interior duo of Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata and how their impact could be similar to Aaron Donald in elevating the pass rushers around them.

Last year, Byron Young and Michael Hoecht combined for 14 sacks as edge defenders in Los Angeles. In 2022, Morris had Leonard Floyd and the year before as the Rams defensive coordinator, he had Floyd and Von Miller. Young and Hoecht were much less proven commodities compared to Floyd and Miller but still produced.

The one issue I have with this kind of “good enough” thought is the Rams’ expectations from a year ago compared to 2021 and 2022. Los Angeles didn’t expect to make much noise last year, but they did in the two years prior, evident in their efforts to build as good of a team as possible, pushing their chips in the middle.

For the Falcons, the expectation is to compete. “Good enough” is a terrible strategy. With that being said, Jarrett and Onyemata were a force before Jarrett’s season ending injury.

The pair combined for four sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 20 hits on the quarterback in eight games. Over a full season, if the Falcons can get around 8.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 40 quarterback hits from its interior pass rush, that’s pretty damn good.

I still don’t think complacency at the edge position is the right approach, though.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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