The Falcons have shown an unreal resilience in 2019. When things cannot possibly get worse, someone pulls out a shovel. Mike Smith, famous for saying “sacks don’t matter,” was fired for ignoring the pass rush. The problem is sacks do matter. If your team cannot get to the quarterback, they are not going to win. Dan Quinn, the team’s head coach as of this article, has stressed sacking the quarterback, yet is pulling the same moves as the team’s former head coach.
The Falcons defense shoveled deep down past rock bottom against the Houston Texans and produced a very Smith-esque zero sacks. Quinn’s defense played confused, scared, and timid. The Falcons frequently rushed only three on obvious passing downs. The results were the team’s worst since 2004.
The Falcons have a total of 5.0 sacks in five games. They are tied for last place with the rebuilding Miami Dolphins, and the Broncos, who are struggling at a historic pace. Even the league median is 12.0 sacks, a number very far out of the team’s reach. Grady Jarrett has easily been the top defensive player on the entire defense, frequently blowing through the offensive line like it’s a wet paper bag. He has a respectable 2.0 sacks for a defensive tackle.
Everyone else? It’s a disaster. Vic Beasley, who the Falcons surprisingly brought back on a $12.8 million tender, has been invisible with only 1.5 sacks as a starting defensive end. When asked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the team’s defensive problems, he said, “But at this point what can you do? You have to move on and try to do better the next time. I know it feels like it’s an ongoing process and I continue to say the same words, it’s the truth. You really have to try to continue to do better.”
Beasley, of course, has continually looked worse throughout his career after a fluke sophomore season.
We had high hopes Beasley could turn it around this season, and at least be a serviceable player that could produce 8 to 10 sacks. If that failed, there was always Takkarist McKinley. He is, almost impossibly, worse than Beasley in terms of getting sacks. McKinley set high expectations in the offseason of multiple sacks in just Week 1 but has only a pathetic half-sack in five games. Both McKinley and Beasley are invisible on the field, especially the last two weeks, and are a big part of the reason Quinn is most likely losing his job.
Based on what leaders have said about the team’s struggles, it is pretty clear there is bubbling frustration with players who are not putting in what it takes to succeed, regardless of the awful pressure packages Dan Quinn is putting together. Jeff Schultz directly asked Beasley to address questions about his desire in the offseason, and his answers were uneven. McKinley has been indicating a lot of support for the Dallas Cowboys on social media, suggesting his mindset may not be entirely on improving his game.
Of course, it’s not all on the players. As mentioned above, Dan Quinn has been rushing four or even three players and dropping everyone else into coverage, and the Falcons keep getting badly burnt because of bumbling and poor communication in the secondary anyways. Neither Beasley nor McKinley has been good this year, but when they’re two of only three guys fighting through a sea of blockers, they don’t really have a chance.
There is a lot of blame to go around when a team expecting playoffs starts at 1-4. Coaches, players, and even the front office deserve criticism. At this rate, a lot of those people will be gone sooner rather than later.