The Atlanta Falcons have spent nearly their entire existence trying to find a consistent pass rush. Trying is doing a lot of work in that last sentence, as more often than not the defensive end position is ignored while those players are frequently played out of position. Like, imagine a slow defensive end covering a team’s top wide receiver.
After Vic Beasley had his sole good season, Dan Quinn has moved him around each following offseason. The results have been pretty bad. With that in mind, I have some very bad news. Takkarist McKinley, who is probably the team’s top pass rusher, is practicing at linebacker for the versatility.
Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“The more versatility that we have (the better),” Quinn said. “I’d rather start on those packages now. We may not play them all the way through, but I’d like to start on them and get the experience. That way when you get into the season, here’s a package that I’d like to discuss and we’ll have already put work in on it.”
Versatility always sounds great but realistically these young players are still developing their most important talents: getting to the quarterback. As we have seen with Beasley (or are not seeing with him skipping OTAs), pass rush isn’t easy.
Considering the Falcons had the 22nd most sacks last season, maybe we can get up to league average before moving to versatility? It’d be like giving Duke Riley some snaps at safety. He’s definitely more versatile but can’t manage his own position.
If McKinley actually takes significant snaps at linebacker this season, it will open up things for interior linemen like Jack Crawford, Ra’Shede Hageman, and Tyeler Davison to play more edge. Realistically, only Crawford has earned that right.
Versatility can make sense if the Falcons added another starter-worthy player at defensive end and there was a logjam at the position. Instead we may stunt the growth of an unquestioned starter because the team wouldn’t pay the versatile Bruce Irvin the $4 million he received from the Carolina Panthers.