Bryan Cox came in to help fix this problem. The hot-tempered former player came worked as a pass rush specialist for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before landing in Atlanta. The Hard Knocks start was one of the few holdovers from Mike Smith's coaching staff.
It has been two years and we haven't seen much improvement in the pass rush. He wasn't working with a whole lot, but none of the defensive linemen have had career years. Cox was believed to have been a big proponent for bringing in Ra'Shede Hageman, and was given the top pure pass rusher in 2015 in Vic Beasley.
Both of those players are still works in progress with only late rounder Grady Jarrett surprising. In fact, former player and current SBN analyst Stephen White broke down Hageman's progress. Nothing he said about Hageman was very surprising: gifted player who only flashes his talent. This was his knock before the draft and fans have been waiting for the light to switch. White believes if there is a time for that to happen, it will be this upcoming season.
We certainly hope it happens. White thinks things may have clicked for Hageman late into last season, but wondered why the team wouldn't put him in at defensive end. That change is reportedly being made this season. White also wondered why Hageman's technique hasn't improved.
Now, I can't stick Hageman with all the blame here. As I look at the Falcons defensive linemen over the last two years, I haven't exactly seen anybody else's technique get that much better either. The one thing Hageman does have complete control of is his effort, and I will give him credit for getting a lot better at hustling over his first two years in the league. I can give his defensive line coach some credit in that area, but that's about it. I can't say for sure that a better defensive line coach would have unlocked Hageman's potential by now, but I can say it for damn sure wouldn't have hurt.
White played 94 games in the NFL at defensive end, so he should have an eye for the defensive line. It should be concerning that Bryan Cox has failed to make any noticeable improvements to the pass rush. Hageman has been Cox's project and the results are sobering: 29 tackles and 2 sacks in 32 games.
While we may put a lot of blame for Atlanta's recent struggles on the offensive coaches, Cox may have one of the hottest seats at Flowery Branch. Another bad year and Dan Quinn should be looking at a new defensive line coach.