Over the last three years, the Falcons have indisputably been one of the best run-stopping teams in the NFL.
Admittedly they've struggled in power running situations, but from 2009-2011 they placed 10th, 10th and 6th in rushing yards allowed. That's nothing to sneeze at, and it's proof positive that Brian Van Gorder and his merry men knew how to plant a running back in the turf. It's just that stopping the run, while valuable, isn't quite as much of a priority in today's pass-happy NFL.
Is that due to change in 2012? Mike Nolan is taking over and promising a more aggressive defense, which promises to seek to cure the Falcons' perennial pass-rushing problems (11th in 2008, 26th in 2009, 20th in 2010 and 19th in 2011). In the course of that effort, the run defense may suffer a bit. In his 18 years as a coordinator and head coach, Nolan has had a Top 15 run defense eight times, compared to 11 times for the pass defense.
Still, these are fundamentally solid players who have been well-versed in the art of destroying running backs. It's entirely possible that a more aggressive, rushing-the-passer-happy D can exist without damning the run. I think the Falcons could afford a slight dip if the pass defense improves significantly, and I'm hoping it will. Most of that will be on Nolan's shoulders.
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