Here’s something that deserves to be called out often this offseason, because of how remarkable it is: The Falcons were one of the better teams in the NFL at generating pressure last year.
If you’re thinking it has been a very long time since we could say that, you’re right, because the Falcons have traditionally been an average-to-bad pass rushing team. As they’ve slowly upgraded their talent base, those results have improved under Dan Quinn, culminating in a great performance by the front seven in an otherwise frustrating year.
Total pressures by each team's front 7 in 2017! pic.twitter.com/8sJc9Wub6T— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 8, 2018
In case you don’t want to squint too hard at that chart, the Falcons were seventh in total pressures last year. That’s impressive enough on its own, and it shatters the weird argument that the Falcons weren’t really all that great up front in 2017.
It also underscores how critical this offseason is for the defensive line, however. The Falcons have Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and a hopefully improved Duke Riley at linebacker, which is awesome, and they’ll be able to bring three great players to bear along the line in Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley, and Grady Jarrett. But there are nothing but question marks beyond those guys at the moment—okay, Jack Crawford should be solid—and the Falcons really can’t afford to be complacent. I expect improvement from Takk and Vic as much as the next guy, but that’s not enough on its own.
With the strength of their core and another good offseason, however, the Falcons should be comfortably inside the top ten again in 2018. That plus some offensive improvement will get you a long way, even in a battle-scarred NFC.