Where are the Falcons struggling most?

DKB211003140 was vs atl

Winning in the NFL is a hard thing to do, and the Falcons have been fighting around .500 for much of the season. They have personnel deficiencies at a number of crucial position groups, and the staff’s schematics haven’t elevated that below-average talent. Atlanta is an average team, through and through. However, I have never once thought to myself that the Falcons aren’t even trying outside of a few instances. Most of the time, it seems the players and staff are fully engaged and trying to win the football game, even if it doesn’t appear that way looking at the results.

That doesn’t take away from the fact the team struggles in several areas. The offense hasn’t consistently moved the ball on the ground for much of the season, but the most glaring issue is the passing game. The offensive line can’t protect Matt Ryan, but the receivers can’t generate separation either. And even when all of those things align, Ryan falters. The offense might be the worst thing about this team; the defense has been the superior component in recent weeks.

The defense is one of the bottom-third units in the league, but as a whole, they’ve been performing better than the offense. However, a facet within the defense has been by far the worst area of this team — the pass rush. If you look at the four graphs below, there is one outlier.

The Y-axis is ESPN’s win-rate metric, and the X-Axis is PFF’s overall grade — both, I’m sure, have flaws. Still, the Falcons pass rush is so clearly the weakest link of the team as it stands right now. The pass rush was better under Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich with similar talent. The only real difference in the front seven is Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Allen Bailey, John Cominsky, and Takk McKinley. The Falcons have similar talent along the defensive front as they did last year, and they’re worse, which means it is scheme-based, right?

Well, the talent on the backend doesn’t allow Dean Pees to play as much man as he’d probably like, even if the Falcons played a lot of decent man coverage in the first half of the Bucs game. There’s not much hope for Pees to create pressure when only bringing four, but if he brings a fifth rusher, that means there are only six defenders in coverage. It is a risky game to play, and the long-time defensive coordinator has chosen to deploy a strategy that replaces the blitzer so he doesn’t lose bodies in coverage, usually with an outside linebacker — Steven Means or Ade Ogundeji, as you saw against Tampa.

But nothing has necessarily been working for Pees. The Bucs offensive line is stout, and the Falcons didn’t touch Tom Brady all game. I went to the game, so I might’ve missed a couple, but I only saw the Falcons pressure Brady four or five times on 50-something dropbacks. That is horrid. The personnel isn’t great, but neither is the scheme. The pass rush is by far the most concerning area of the team, as it has been for some time now.


Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: