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Falcons Practice Report: What's happening with the pass rush?

Dan Quinn sounded a bit like Mike Smith when he addressed the media prior to Wednesday's practice.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Remember how former Falcons head coach Mike Smith used to talk about how the pass rush is about more than just sacks? Well, Dan Quinn's apparently subscribing to the same philosophy.

Don't worry, though. Quinn does still see the importance of sacks.

"The pass rush isn't solely made up of sacks. It's hits, forced fumbles," Quinn said. "Sacks are definitely a factor, because you have an opportunity to get the ball out and you lose yards. Those are significant factors."

The Falcons have struggled to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks for several seasons, and with zero sacks against the Buccaneers, and with minimal pressure allowing the Bucs to make some big plays to win the game, it's definitely cause for concern.

Atlanta obviously has tried to address the pass rush, bringing in Dwight Freeney and Derrick Shelby as free agents this offseason. The team has done some shuffling to try to find the best way to feature guys (a favorite phrase of Quinn's) and maximize the defense's ability to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

"There's a couple of different ways you can do it," Quinn said about formualating a pass rush. "Somebody can all-out blitz, and you've got really good cover and you want to do that in style, you can. Some of the most effective ways, where you don't have to lose coverage guys underneath and still four-man rush and be in concert of working together.

"Sometimes that takes some experience of working together, how to feature different guys inside."

The team isn't quite where Quinn had hoped they'd be at this point, but they'll look for improvement this week against an Oakland squad that allowed zero sacks on Derek Carr last week against a Saints team that admittedly doesn't have a great pass rush, either.

For what it's worth, Dwight Freeney agrees with Quinn that an effective pass rush isn't all about sacks.

"There's a lot of different reasons why there's either pass rush or there isn't pass rush," Freeney said. "I think sometimes people see a stat, which would be a sack, and if you don't see any, you automatically feel like, ‘Oh, there's been no pass rush.' But affecting the quarterback is pass rush — being able to move him off his spot. If the quarterback happens to throw the ball quick, well, guess what. I don't care how fast you think you are. You're not going to get there."

So what would an effective pass rush from the Falcons look like, then?

According to Freeney, it's a balance of different things.

"It's pretty much getting (him) off the spot," Freeney said. "It's hurries. It's sometimes — you know what, the quarterback will have an errant throw sometimes when he sees rushes coming, he doesn't want to get hit. He throws it, it goes over guys' — the receiver's head sometimes or missed throws — he doesn't want to step in because a guy's in his face."

Just because the team believes there's more to a pass rush than just racking up sacks doesn't mean the team isn't focused on sacking the quarterback.

"Clearly, we all want to get sacks," Freeney said. "That's what we're here for. We want to get it. I don't care what it is — our job is to try to get as many as possible."

Let's hope they start getting sacks against the Raiders on Sunday. With Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman all battling injuries on offense, the team's going to need as much help from the defense as they can get. Brooks Reed was held out of today's practice, and if he's not 100% by Sunday, that doesn't exactly make the defense's job easier.