clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Falcons defense will need to be overhauled

New, comments

The team with one of the worst defenses in the NFL is seeking major changes this offseason.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons had one of the worst defenses in the NFL the last two seasons, full-stop. We had all hoped for a turnaround in 2014, but an anemic pass rush, poor scheming, injuries and weak play doomed them to another terrible finish.

With defensive-minded Dan Quinn coming in to replace Mike Smith and a mandate from owner Arthur Blank to improve the defense, the path forward is obvious, and the team will do everything it can to put an aggressive unit on the field in 2015. That doesn't mean the path forward will be a clean one, however.

The coaching versus talent camps will continue to wage war over who was at fault for the last two seasons of utterly inept results, but in truth, that battled was already decided internally. Mike Smith got the boot, Mike Nolan is settling for a linebackers coach job in San Diego and the front office remains intact, if shuffled around a bit. The coaching staff bore the brunt of the blame inside Flowery Branch and outside of it, even if the talent base has major fault lines.

That doesn't mean we aren't about to see genuine upheaval for the defense. Right now, Kroy Biermann, Corey Peters, Sean Weatherspoon, Osi Umenyiora, Dwight Lowery, Josh Wilson, Robert McClain and Javier Arenas are all free agents, leaving at least a couple of key spots open. Jonathan Babineaux is 33 years old. Ra'Shede Hageman is still a developmental guy, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu are useful pieces but may not be starters for Dan Quinn, Marquis Spruill is coming off a major injury, nobody knows what the hell Tyler Starr is and guys like Malliciah Goodman had merely okay years. Even Jonathan Massaquoi, a fan favorite and talented young pass rusher, is uncertain to stick due to clashes with the team. You've essentially got Desmond Trufant, young players to develop, a couple of steady veterans and major question marks everywhere else, and while you can effect quick turnarounds in today's NFL,

The Falcons know that's not a recipe for an immediate, decisive turnaround. To get this unit to where it needs to be, the team will be making several key additions, among them multiple pass rushers, linebackers and perhaps cornerbacks, but they may also elect to cut pieces they deem incapable of being part of the next great Falcons defense. That will likely get messy as a handful of fan favorites (or at least familiar faces) will be headed out the door, replaced by new and deeply unfamiliar players. The 2008 Falcons went through a similar process, jettisoning a lot of largely minor and replaceable players en route to remaking the defense.

The only certainty is that Desmond Trufant will be there as one of the league's premier cornerbacks, and that Quinn and the front office will do what they deem necessary to turn the ship around. Everything else is guesswork and uncertainty, at least for now.

For your Super Bowl tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.