Defense Will Rise Up This Season for Falcons

Will Hamilton, Staff writer

Heartbreak is one of the many words any Falcons fan would use to describe the way they felt after the Falcons had the worst collapse in Superbowl history. Atlanta football fans will be taunted with the numbers ‘28-3’ for years to come. The falcons high powered offense failed to produce points, and our already inconsistent defense remained just that – inconsistent. The Falcon’s defense was one of the worst in the league last year, but could potentially be a top ten defense in the years to come.

Atlanta’s weak defense had a few bright spots last year. Vic Beasley, Jr., in his second year, ended up leading the NFL in sacks, with a whopping 15.5. His speed and skills rushing the passer rival those of players like Von Miller. Beasley is young, and there is no sign of him slowing down anytime soon.

Another bright spot for our defense last year was the amazing production the Falcon’s got from rookies Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. Jones, a middle linebacker, led the Falcons in total tackles with 108. Jones was selected in the second round of last year’s draft. Keanu Neal, a strong safety selected in the first round of last years draft, had the second most tackles on the team with 106. For these two players to lead the team in tackles as rookies is a sign of amazing things to come.

During the offseason, the Falcons made some great acquisitions that will only improve our defense. We signed two-time Pro Bowler, defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who will no doubt improve our run defense, which was our weakest area last year. His incredible skill set will also prove to be valuable in the pass rush. With our first two picks in the 2017 NFL draft, the Falcons selected defensive end Takkarist McKinley and outside linebacker Duke Riley. Riley had the second fastest 40 yard dash time at the NFL combine, second to only Jabrill Peppers, who is now a safety. So essentially, Riley is the fastest rookie linebacker in the league. And Takkarist McKinley is something special. He has one of the highest motors out of any NFL rookie and has relentless determination when it comes to getting to the quarterback.

One of the greatest things about our defense is speed, something Head Coach Dan Quinn is always working to improve. The NFL is continuously shifting towards more pass heavy offense. To defend these pass heavy offenses you need fast secondary for coverage (given), fast defensive linemen to put pressure on the quarterback (as opposed to bigger stronger lineman better suited for defending the run) and lastly, a fast group of linebackers that have the speed and strength both to drop into coverage and rush the passer. That is the defense that Dan Quinn has and is continuing to build, using players like Beasley and Riley.

Another one of the great aspects of our defense going forward is our ability to rotate. We have a fluid defense that is so fast all around that many players can just switch positions. Vic Beasley often switches between outside linebacker and defensive end. Kemhal Ishmael switches between strong safety and linebacker. Those are just a few. We also have the ability to rotate players in and out of games and keep them from getting exhausted due to our depth on defense, especially on the defensive line.

The Atlanta Falcons starting defense is one of the youngest in the league. Every single starter except for cornerback Desmond Trufant (26) and Dontari Poe (27) is 25 or under. This means that our defense has yet to reach its prime and is already performing at a good level. There is tons of raw talent that, with time, will develop into one of the most feared, fast, and vicious defenses the NFL will see in the coming years.