The Falcons actually have a pass rush this season, which is a little disconcerting. Last season, the Falcons managed just 19 sacks all season. This year, they already have exceeded that number, with 20 sacks through nine games.
Fans hate to hear this, but it’s a little more palatable when the Falcons are actually getting sacks — a pass rush isn’t all about sacks. On that note, NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt shared an interesting statistic for Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn.
Most def front 7 pressures:— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 10, 2016
So not only are the Falcons sacking quarterbacks more effectively than they have been in recent memory, they’re also disrupting opponents. Clayborn is ranked right up there with some of the top rushers in the league, and that’s encouraging. He also has 4.5 sacks on the season so far.
Clayborn says the key is in the Falcons’ preparation.
“It’s kind of like I’ve been saying all along, but we’re working well together. I think individual-wise, we’re all perfecting our moves,” Clayborn said. “One thing [Bryan] Cox has us doing is getting a game plan for each guy and knowing what you’re going to do rush and how you’re going to rush the guy and really knowing what you’re going to do going into the game instead of just going in there and freestyling.”
This is the key difference, and it’s certainly working.
If you watched All or Nothing, the Amazon series featuring the Arizona Cardinals last season, you saw Dwight Freeney game planning for Packers left tackle Don Barclay. Freeney specifically spelled out exactly what he was going to do to exploit Barclay’s weaknesses, and he did exactly that on game day. That’s what the Falcons are doing now as a whole, and it’s the biggest difference from last season.
“So it’s everybody — Coach Cox, us, Coach Quinn giving us a good game plan,” Clayborn said. “So we’re just going into the game prepared and not like last year — not that it’s anybody’s fault, but we’re all young and we were just freestyling then.”
Clayborn said that an additional offseason in Quinn’s system has benefited everybody, and we are certainly seeing those results with Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett. Beasley has 7.5 sacks so far this season, and Jarrett has two.
“This is my, what, second time since I’ve been in the league being under ... the same system twice in a row, so it’s helpful,” Clayborn said. “And I know the young guys being in the league, getting another year under their belt, that helps for them. So as you can see with Vic and Grady, it’s been working out.”
It’s been fun to see this defense actually pressure the quarterback, and it’s just one area in which a young defense seems to be incrementally improving week to week. Here’s hoping it continues.