When Dan Quinn was installed as the newest head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he was taking over an offense loaded with skilled players, including (as it turned out) a young running back on the cusp of stardom. What he didn’t inherit was a great defense, and what’s striking looking back at the roster before that 2015 NFL Draft is just how different the defense looked. It’s worth exploring.
So here’s a look at how different the team looks in the year 2018 than 2015, with the caveat that some of these starters are guesstimated because the team made moves in the draft or later in the offseason that quickly made them backups.
Starters 2015 vs. 2018
|QB||Matt Ryan||Matt Ryan|
|RB||Devonta Freeman||Devonta Freeman|
|WR||Julio Jones||Julio Jones|
|WR||Roddy White||Mohamed Sanu|
|TE||Jacob Tamme||Austin Hooper|
|LT||Jake Matthews||Jake Matthews|
|LG||James Stone||Andy Levitre|
|C||Mike Person||Alex Mack|
|RG||Chris Chester||Brandon Fusco|
|RT||Ryan Schraeder||Ryan Schraeder|
|DE||Adrian Clayborn||Vic Beasley|
|DT||Ra'Shede Hageman||Grady Jarrett|
|DT||Tyson Jackson||Jack Crawford|
|DE||Kroy Biermann||Takkarist McKinley|
|LB||O'Brien Schofield||De'Vondre Campbell|
|LB||Justin Durant||Deion Jones|
|LB||Paul Worrilow||Duke Riley|
|CB||Desmond Trufant||Desmond Trufant|
|CB||Robert Alford||Robert Alford|
|CB||Phillip Adams||Brian Poole|
|S||Ricardo Allen||Ricardo Allen|
|S||William Moore||Keanu Neal|
|K||Matt Bryant||Matt Bryant|
|P||Matt Bosher||Matt Bosher|
|LS||Josh Harris||Josh Harris|
The differences are most striking along the offensive line, where Alex Mack is a massive upgrade on Mike Person, and throughout the defense, where Dan Quinn’s teardown is getting closer to completion. The Falcons have jettisoned or replaced all four tentative starting defensive linemen from that 2015 team and all three starting linebackers, plus strong safety, where they replaced William Moore with Keanu Neal. Not every single one of the players they’ve got as a replacement at the moment is a true upgrade, but it’s pretty close, and the defense is light years better and younger than it was in Quinn’s first season at the helm.
Keep that in mind as the team embarks on its draft and attempts to put the finishing touches on the current Falcons squad. There are no guarantees that the 2018 team is going to be significantly better than that ill-fated 2015 team, but it sure looks a hell of a lot better on paper already.