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Breaking down the midseason pace of the Atlanta Falcons defense

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The Falcons’ defense looks better, but it’s also still short of greatness.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Your Atlanta Falcons have largely kept up a pace on defense that looks much better than last year’s, but they’ve lacked all the big plays that would take them to another stratosphere, and their inability to get off the field has contributed to the Falcons “enjoying” a tiny number of offensive possessions in 2017. Are they good, or not?

Below, you’ll find the team’s midseason pace on defense. All items in italics are from 2016.


Defense

Total Points Allowed: 344 (406)

Total Yards Allowed: 5,148 (5,939)

Passing Yards Allowed: 3,316 (4,267)

Rushing Yards Allowed: 1,832 (1,672)

Sacks: 36 (34)

Turnovers: 12 (26)

It is very interesting to see what kind of pace this defense is on. They could allow 60+ fewer points, nearly 800 fewer passing yards, and pick up two more sacks, but they’re getting gouged on the ground even worse than a year ago and they’re wayyyyy behind last year’s turnover pace. That’s added up to a lot of long, grinding drives that don’t necessarily lead to touchdowns, but do chew up time and allow for plenty of field goal chances. They’re still not quite there yet, even if they’re very obviously closer, and the lack of turnovers is a big reason why.

Individual Performances

DE Vic Beasley: 24 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

(39 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown)

DE Brooks Reed: 24 tackles, 6 sacks

(21 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble)

DE Adrian Clayborn: 16 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 pass deflections

(22 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown)

DE Derrick Shelby: 14 tackles, 2 sacks

(8 tackles, 1 pass deflection)

DE Takkarist McKinley: 12 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles

DE/DT Courtney Upshaw: 2 tackles

(14 tackles, 1 sack)

DT Grady Jarrett: 42 tackles, 1 sack, a metric buttload of TFLs

(48 tackles, 3 sacks)

DT Dontari Poe: 20 tackles, 1 sack, 4 pass deflections

LB Deion Jones: 94 tackles, 2 sacks, 8 pass deflections, 1 interception

(106 tackles, 3 interceptions, 11 pass deflections, 2 defensive touchdowns)

LB De’Vondre Campbell: 60 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble

(48 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble)

LB Duke Riley: 16 tackles (injured)

LB/S Kemal Ishmael: 14 tackles

(49 tackles, 2 pass deflections)

CB Desmond Trufant: 34 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 12 pass deflections, 2 defensive touchdowns

(30 tackles, 1 interception, 4 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks)

CB Robert Alford: 54 tackles, 20 pass deflections

(59 tackles, 2 interceptions, 19 pass deflections, 1 defensive touchdown

CB Brian Poole: 54 tackles, 8 pass deflections, 2 sacks

(58 tackles, 1 interception, 10 pass deflections, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries)

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 2 tackles

S Keanu Neal: 88 tackles, 4 pass deflections

(106 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 5 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery)

S Ricardo Allen: 42 tackles

(90 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 pass deflections)

S Damontae Kazee: 10 tackles, 4 forced fumbles

S Sharrod Neasman: 2 tackles

(3 tackles)


What stands out to you here, no doubt, is the lack of big plays. You have to remember that multiple interceptions by the likes of Deion Jones and Robert Alford have been erased by penalties, which would take away some of this sting. You must also remember that the Falcons have not forced a ton of fumbles and haven’t been able to come up with most of the ones they have forced, albeit not so much against Carolina.

There’s no doubting the talent level here, and generally I’ve been encouraged by the results. But the truth is that until this defense either is able to put up better drive-to-drive performances agains the run and/or get turnovers at the same clip they did a year ago, they’ll be stuck somewhere between slightly above average and good for the future. That’s better than most of 2016, but not enough to overcome a shaky offense, and nowhere close to the elite unit Dan Quinn has long dreamt of. We’ll hope they can pick up the pace on sacks and turnovers and keep those passing yards suppressed.