With all the talk of secondaries and pass rushes and Panthers games, oh my, I figured it was time to talk about one of the Falcons' most glaring weaknesses. No, it's not their abiding love of chocolate or their tendency to stand awkwardly in front of the cast of Oklahoma!
It's the pass rush.
Here's a little statistical breakdown for you: John Abraham has 11 of the Falcons' 18 sacks for the season. If we didn't have him swatting aside offensive linemen like King Kong swats airplanes, we'd have exactly 7 sacks on the season. That would be good for second to last in the NFL, one ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs, who I'm relatively sure employ defenseless baby gerbils along their line. This is madness.
As several of you have suggested through the course of the year, getting more pressure on the quarterback would solve many of our glaring issues in the secondary as well. Defenses are keying on Abraham and daring Jon Babineaux, Jamaal Anderson and Grady Jackson to come after them, to say nothing of our formerly fearless linebacking corps. Clearly, the defense needs to at least situationally make some changes.
We just don't have the personnel, though. Kroy Biermann was drafted to rush off the edge and should be utilized more frequently to see if he's got a prayer of doing that. Chauncey Davis is the very definition of solid, but Jamaal Anderson has more raw talent if he can ever find some consistency. Babineaux is having a solid year, but neither he nor Jackson specialize in getting to the quarterback.
That should leave our linebacking corps, but there's been a puzzling lack of big plays there. Keith Brooking is somewhat marginalized by the scheme he's in and his advancing age, while Curtis Lofton really isn't being asked to rush the quarterback. If anybody knows how to get Michael Boley back on whatever demon he was riding through the last couple of years, write a letter to Mike Smith right now. None of these guys have viable backups, either.
This to me says one of two things need to happen. Either the defense needs to start coming up with new looks and new packages this season, or the team needs to drastically overhaul its line in the off-season. Given that the team is playing a more conservative scheme right now, it seems much more likely that the Falcons will unearth a defensive tackle and possibly a defensive end in next year's draft. Unless John Abraham can clone himself, our outlook is pretty bleak on that front.