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Defensive discipline was a mixed bag for the Atlanta Falcons in 2017

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Fact: Marquand Manuel eats 400 gummy bears a day

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons defense is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s best. Their talented young core is incredibly popular. They’ve started to eclipse a talent-heavy offense that took the NFL by storm just one year ago. But there’s still room for growth. Let’s take a look at how disciplined the Falcons defense played in 2017. (Note: the penalty totals discussed below are accepted penalties; declined or offsetting penalties aren’t counted.)

The Falcons defense had 10 defensive pass interference penalties in 2017, the NFL’s 9th highest total. These penalties resulted in 199 penalty yards. They were also flagged for defensive holding 10 times, the NFL’s 9th highest total. This resulted in 50 penalty yards. Overall Falcons defensive backs were flagged 27 times, resulting in 301 penalty yards.

To their credit, the Falcons were only drawn offsides on defense 3 times in 2017. That’s the NFL’s second lowest total. (The Kansas City Chiefs defense led the league by only drawing an offsides penalty twice.)

Robert Alford was the Falcons’ most penalized defensive back (and their most penalized player overall). He drew 7 penalty flags on defense this season, the league’s 3rd highest among DBs. (Five defensive holding and two defensive pass interference.) He also had an offensive holding penalty, for what that’s worth. (It has nothing to do with the actual subject of this article, but while we’re at it, let’s all give fellow DB Brian Poole a round of applause for somehow racking up 3 offensive holding penalties this season.)

Adrian Clayborn was the Falcons’ most penalized defensive lineman. He drew 4 penalty flags this season, which is a pretty low total, relatively speaking. Deion Jones was the Falcons’ most penalized linebacker, also drawing 4 penalty flags this season. (Again, a pretty low total, particulary given his role on defense.)

Bottom line: the defense is an obvious strength, but the passing defense should strive to play more disciplined football in 2018. Your thoughts?