If pressed to answer what's the Falcons identity on offense, it would be answered pretty easily-they are a passing team. If this same question was asked of the defense, I don't believe the answer comes as quickly.
Enter the 2014 Draft
My thought on that the Falcons must go defense in the first round has been driven largely by the fact that we don't have a defensive identity in my view. Scheme? We have that in the form of the amoeba defense. However, defensively, we don't have a personality. Identity (from a positive standpoint) is largely driven by what you do well. Quite honestly, the Falcons don't do anything well.
Our identity on offense, in large part has been driven by the fact we've spent tons of resources (ie: picks and $$$) on Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and the newly retired Tony Gonzalez. The defense hasn't been afforded this same luxury.
Because so much has been tied to the offense, selecting a pass rusher at 6 (or higher or lower) seems the way to go. Why?
1) Draft Position-Provided we improve, we won't be picking this high next year. Now is our shot at getting a premium pass rusher.
2) Finances-Matt's salary increases next year and Julio will be re-upped soon. This will hamper our ability to sign a free agent pass rusher of any substance, even with the crap increases. Drafting a playmaking pass rusher allows us to pay a reduced rate for projected high productivity.
3)Secondary-Our high draft picks from last year (Alford and Trufant) will improve by having more pressure up front. Pressure up front leads to interceptions and less time chasing wide receivers.
4) Pressure on the competition-Drafting Julio at 6 put pressure on defensive coordinators to develop game plans to account for this beast of an athlete, while still having to account for Roddy and Tony. Drafting a Mack or Clowney could open up things for a Maponga, Goodman, or Massaquoi if they are truly improving as the Falcons brass have been led to believe, because the new draftee is drawing attention.
5 Drop off in talent-People have argued "address the pass rush in the later rounds." Experts such as Mike Mayock have offered that their is a precipitous drop off in talent when it comes to the pass rushers after Mack and Clowney. Dee Ford and Jeremiah Attachou have been mentioned. However, they lack the versatility that Mack and Clowney have. Mack (and to a lesser degree Clowney) have been skill sets to do what Nolan wants-drop back in coverage and rush the passer.
We don't control who goes before us. If Mack and Clowney are taken before 6 (very likely), we have to move down or draft one of the tackles. My point in all of this is to support going with one or the other should they be available or the Falcons find a way to trade up. The pass rush issue has been around, even when Abe was here. It declined after his departure. The idea isn't to become Seattle. Offense is where we make our hay. But, we have to be able to stop an ineffective Geno Smith in 2013, Tom Brady with a rag-tag group of new WRs (see 2013), 1yr QBs in the playoffs (Kap and Wilson in 2013), and Cam/Brees from converting 3rd and 36's because we can't get to the QB.
I really felt tackle should have been addressed in FA because Matt's issue was he had too many young guys and we jettisoned vets like Clabo and McClure. Robinson, Matthews, and Lewan still have to learn the speed of the game, with no real vets on the roster to help groom them like a McClure did Baker.
If possible, let's go pass rush. Now is the time.