Taking a Glimpse at the Atlanta Falcons Defense
The Atlanta Falcons haven’t had a winning season in the past five years (’18-present) and a large part of that reason is Atlanta’s subpar defense.
The Falcons have been ranked towards the bottom of the league in total defense for the past three seasons.
In 2020, the defense ranked 29th in the league, in 2021 they were ranked 24th and in 2022 the defensive side of the ball was placed at the 27th spot.
Atlanta struggled heavily on the defensive front, as they accumulated only 39 sacks in the past two seasons. Over that span, the other 31 defenses in the league collected at least 62.
New Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who previously served as co-defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, will step into the 2023 season with a revamped roster on defense.
During the off-season, the Falcons made strides to improve their defense by signing former Cincinnati Bengals and former second-team all-pro safety Jessie Bates III. Bates III will be roaming alongside strong safety Richie Grant, who was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft by Atlanta.
With Bates III playing next to a young defensive back in Grant, the pairing will naturally take the pressure off of Grant, as the former Bengal was rated the highest safety in the 2020 season by PFF. Bates III played in seven playoff games and in Super Bowl 56.
Atlanta also brought in former first-round pick cornerback Mike Hughes (played with Lions ’22), defensive lineman David Onyemata (played with Saints ’16-’22),and linebackers Kaden Elliss (played with Saints ’19-’22) and veteran Bud Dupree (played with Titans ’21-’22).
The 2016 NFC champions could be starting an almost all-new defensive roster when the 2023 season rolls around.
Two-time pro-bowl defensive end Grady Jarrett, who was drafted by the Falcons in the fifth-round of the 2015 NFL draft, has been a mainstay on Atlanta’s defensive front. Jarrett accumulated double-digit quarterback hits for six seasons in a row (’17-’22) along with a second-team all-pro selection in 2019.
Alongside Jarrett on the defensive line is former Arizona Cardinals defensive-end Calais Campbell, who signed a one-year deal with Atlanta during the offseason. Campbell, who will be entering his sixteenth season, is going to be a prominent veteran presence for the Falcons defense. The former Cardinal is a six-time pro bowler along with being a member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade team. Campbell racked up 5.5 sacks in 2022 as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
Atlanta has a healthy mix of young and veteran talent on their defense after their free-agent spending spree price of over $140 million dollars.
The Atlanta Falcons are entering a new era as second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder will be taking the reins, and having a competent defense takes immense pressure off the young quarterback.
Atlanta has not won the NFC South crown since 2016, and with the entire division being in somewhat of a rebuild, the Falcons are strengthening their weaknesses which in this case, is their defense.