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Breaking down the quarter season pace of the Atlanta Falcons defense

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They’re on pace to do very good things in 2017.

Buffalo Bills v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If you’re searching for reasons to feel optimistic about the Atlanta Falcons...honestly, you don’t have to look very far. They’re a good football team, despite the miscues, injuries and worries.

If you want a specific reason, though, you can key in on the defense. This is a unit that has fared better than I anticipated through the first four weeks of the season, regardless of the level of competition, and is doing so despite very few turnovers and lots of missed tackles. Let’s take a closer look at the unit’s pace after four games.

Defense

Total Points Allowed: 356 (406)

Total Yards Allowed: 5,192 (5,939)

Passing Yards Allowed: 3,604 (4,267)

Rushing Yards Allowed: 1,488 (1,672)

Sacks: 48 (34)

Turnovers: 20 (26)

Individual Performances

DE Vic Beasley: 16 tackles, 8 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
(39 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown)

DE Brooks Reed: 56 tackles, 12 sacks
(21 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble)

DE Adrian Clayborn: 20 tackles, 8 sacks
(22 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown)

DE Derrick Shelby: 16 tackles, 4 sacks
(8 tackles, 1 pass deflection)

DE Takkarist McKinley: 16 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 pass deflections

DT Grady Jarrett: 44 tackles (a bunch for losses)
(48 tackles, 3 sacks)

DT Dontari Poe: 24 tackles

DT Jack Crawford: 5 tackles (now on injured reserve)

DT Joe Vellano: 8 tackles

LB Deion Jones: 108 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 pass deflections
(106 tackles, 3 interceptions, 11 pass deflections, 2 defensive touchdowns)

LB De’Vondre Campbell: 88 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 pass deflections
(48 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble)

LB Duke Riley: 52 tackles

LB/S Kemal Ishmael: 4 tackles
(49 tackles, 2 pass deflections)

CB Desmond Trufant: 32 tackles, 4 interceptions, 16 pass deflections
(30 tackles, 1 interception, 4 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks)

CB Robert Alford: 84 tackles, 20 pass deflections
(59 tackles, 2 interceptions, 19 pass deflections, 1 defensive touchdown

CB Brian Poole: 96 tackles, 12 pass deflections, 4 sacks
(58 tackles, 1 interception, 10 pass deflections, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries)

S Keanu Neal: 96 tackles, 4 pass deflections
(106 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 5 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery)

S Ricardo Allen: 48 tackles
(90 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 pass deflections)

S Damontae Kazee: 40 tackles, 8 forced fumbles

S Sharrod Neasman: 8 tackles
(3 tackles)


Let’s be honest with ourselves: When you’ve played the Bears, Bills, Lions and a depleted Packers team, your defensive stats are going to look better than they might have if you kicked off the year with say the Saints, Patriots, Cowboys, and Buccaneers. Still, the Falcons are on pace to allow 50 fewer points and nearly 800 fewer yards on the season. It’s evident that despite the hiccups and penalties, this unit is better than it was a year ago this time, even if they’re not pulling down the turnovers they’ll need against better offenses.

The turnovers are probably the key to the whole thing as the opposition gets more challenging, starting in Week 7 against the Patriots. The talent here is evident and they’re on pace for some of their most impressive numbers in years, but for the Falcons to be truly great on this side of the ball, they need Ricardo Allen and Robert Alford to come down with interceptions, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell to continue to wreak havoc, and a healthy Vic Beasley bolstering a solid early pass rush. That seems like a lot of things to ask for, but it really isn’t.

If I said I was bullish about the offense improving yesterday, I’m just as bullish on the defense continuing to quietly function as a good unit all year, for the first time in recent memory. The two combined would virtually ensure that Atlanta’s a playoff team again in 2017.