What does each offseason acquisition bring to the Falcons: David Onyemata

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The Falcons feature the deepest rotation across the defensive line that Atlanta has seen in quite some time. Grady Jarrett has been a one-man wrecking crew for most of his career, but he finally has a worthwhile supporting cast. Given all of these additions, I found it might be helpful to talk about what led each of them here and what they bring, moving on to the most expensive front seven acquisition.

Check out any of the other parts of the series if you’ve missed them!

David Onyemata

It’s no surprise the former Saints defensive lineman signed with the Falcons, given his ties to Terry Fontenot and Ryan Nielsen from New Orleans. He served a six-game suspension in 2021 after testing positive for PEDs, but the regime in Atlanta is obviously comfortable with that.

He signed a three-year, $35 million deal to come to Atlanta after a somewhat disappointing 2022 campaign. Onyemata recorded just half a sack, five pressures, and a paltry ten tackles through the first seven games. To be fair, the entire Saints’ defense struggled across the span.

However, the entire defense, including Onyemata, turned it on in the games following. He recorded a sack in three straight games from Week 8 to 10, adding 1.5 more in the final three weeks, including 33 tackles over the last nine contests, bringing his total to 5.5 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss.

Last year was his worst in the run defense department, but it doesn’t seem to bother Ryan Nielsen, Arthur Smith, and Terry Fontenot. Despite the struggles against the run, he remains one of the better interior pass rushers in the NFL. His track record suggests his age shouldn’t be a factor either. From 2018 to 2020, he recorded 14 sacks, 54 pressures, and 17 tackles for loss.

The Falcons will likely keep a healthy rotation along the defensive front, but fans can expect David Onyemata to assume a 3T mostly, allowing Grady Jarrett to kick further inside to a 1T and 0T, where he thrived under Dan Quinn.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nielsen used Onyemata sparingly on early downs because of his run defense and regularly on obvious pass-rushing downs, but teams don’t give players $35 million to only play on third downs, so he will still see the field regularly.

Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire


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