Let’s start this off by acknowledging something that should be pretty obvious: This is not the best defense the Falcons have ever had, and it’s unlikely to match the 1977 Grits Blitz defense that allowed only 129 points in 14 games. That’s an insane mark, and given the way offenses look in 2017 in a 16 game season, not a repeatable one.
Is it the most talented defense, though? There’s a better case for that.
These Falcons have the following great players, all of whom could someday be considered superstars at their respective positions:
- Vic Beasley, who had the first double digit sack season by a Falcon since John Abraham, and nearly broke Abraham’s franchise mark;
- Takkarist McKinley, a talented rookie pass rusher with the swagger and brashness we all love in our defenders;
- Grady Jarrett, a gifted young defensive tackle who racked up three sacks in the Super Bowl against a quality Patriots offensive line;
- Deion Jones, whose speed, playmaking ability and physicality made him one of the most promising rookie linebackers in the NFL in 2016;
- De’Vondre Campbell, who has sky-high potential despite some year one struggles and his fourth round draft pedigree;
- Desmond Trufant, one of the best coverage cornerbacks in the entire NFL;
- Robert Alford, a supremely underrated, physical cornerback with a new extension under his belt;
- Keanu Neal, who already looks like one of the best, most complete safeties in the entire NFL.
That’s not even mentioning Ricardo Allen, a talented young safety in his own right, second-year nickel back Brian Poole, third-year corner Jalen Collins, and the team’s deep rotation along the defensive front. There’s a ton of talent here, especially compared to the Mike Smith years, when the Falcons did some pretty remarkable things with seemingly limited players.
Is it the most talented ever, though? I’ll go out on a small limb and say that top-to-bottom, it absolutely is. There have been brighter stars in Atlanta at specific positions, but there’s never been such an assemblage of young, promising talent here. It may not translate into NFL-best production just yet, but the sky really is the limit.
What say you?