We’ve talked a lot about the pass rush, a (hopefully) improved run defense, and what that might mean for the Falcons’ efforts to stop other teams. The upshot is that we all expect this unit to improve, which would make this Atlanta team even scarier for the rest of the NFL to face.
For the defense to really break the back of opposing offenses, it would help to snag more turnovers, though the team was quite productive in that regard in 2016. Atlanta had a +5 turnover differential in 2017 and managed to recover 14 fumbles after forcing 17, adding 12 interceptions along the way. That’s very solid, but may just be scratching the surface of what this team can do, particularly if they can apply pressure more frequently on opposing quarterbacks.
For the Falcons to cause more turnovers, they’ll need to be even more aggressive in coverage and get in the faces of QBs to try to cause more interceptions. A team with playmakers like Robert Alford, Deion Jones, and now Damontae Kazee should be able to improve on that 12 interception total. As we all know from experiences both positive and crushing, a pick can turn the tide of a game, even if you’re having an off day and getting gouged. Given the obvious talent on this team, I think we’ll see the total rise.
The team can certainly force more fumbles—they have a lethal group of physical defenders, which helps in that regard—but we can’t count on them recovering more than they did a year ago. Fumble recoveries vary greatly year to year because, hey, it’s a ball bouncing around on the turf and anyone can come up with it. The only way to ensure you get more chances to recover them is to cause more, and with Vic Beasley on the team, that doesn’t seem all that farfetched.
If the Falcons can pull down even a handful more interceptions and fumble recoveries than a year ago, this defense has a legitimate chance to be great, and the team is even more likely to be a juggernaut. Let’s hope for it.