Why Dean Pees isn’t disappointed in the Falcons defense

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A few weeks ago, Joe Burrow threw for nearly 500 yards as the Bengals routed the Falcons. The former Heisman Trophy winner took full advantage of a secondary decimated by injuries. And since then, Dean Pees’ group hasn’t looked much better. Against the Panthers, the Falcons let P.J. Walker have a field day in Atlanta. The unit improved last week against the Chargers but faced LA’s backups. It’s okay to say the Falcons’ defense has been horrible again under Pees because it has, but the veteran defensive coordinator apparently isn’t disappointed in his group.

Well, this is a relatively simple one to diagnose. If one’s expectations are low, there is a lesser probability of disappointment, and I believe Pees realizes the talent (or lack thereof) that he’s been afforded. The Falcons have spent absolutely no cap dollars or first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball since A.J. Terrell. Casey Hayward was the most lucrative free agent contract handed out this offseason, and he’s on the injured reserve. It’s a bunch of stopgap veterans — Rashaan Evans, Lorenzo Carter — and young players still on their rookie deals — Terrell, Jaylinn Hawkins, Richie Grant, Ta’Quon Graham, etc.

It’s not a good unit because of the lack of talent, not because Pees has lost his touch. There have been moments where he was outcoached, but for the most part, the defensive issues can be attributed to the personnel. Until there’s some real investment into the defense — free agency or draft — then expectations should always be tempered.

Dean Pees isn’t disappointed in the defense following the Chargers game because it was actually better than their season averages, which is bottom of the barrel in everything except for defending against the run.

  • Opponent Points per Game 25.0 (26th)
  • Opponent Yards per Game 406.9 (31st) 
  • Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage 47.46% (29th)
  • Opponent Rushing Yards per Game 106.9 (8th)
  • Opponent Yards per Rush Attempt 4.3 (12th)
  • Opponent Completion Percentage 68.87% (31st)
  • Opponent Passing Yards per Game 300.0 (32nd)
  • Opponent Yards per Completion 10.8 (23rd)
  • Sacks per Game 1.3 (31st)
  • Takeaways per Game 1.4 (T-10th)

Pees is a grizzled veteran and knows the talent discrepancy in Atlanta compared to the dominant units he coordinated in New England and Baltimore. The Falcons have two elite players surrounded by a bunch of average to well-below-average players. And in today’s high-scoring NFL, that’s a recipe for low expectations. Good on Pees to set his low, though, because I had hoped for this unit to at least be slightly below average. They’re just downright terrible.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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