If you’re like me, you probably have a hard time getting fired up about meaningless preseason action. But that wasn’t the case on Thursday night when Deadrin Senat strip-sacked Case Keenum and the fumble went directly into Takk McKinley’s hands.
Maybe I got so excited because this defensive line hasn’t given us much to get excited about in recent memory. Sure, Vic Beasley led the league in sacks in 2016, and Adrian Clayborn had that one outstanding game against the Cowboys backup LT in that same season, but by and large, this is a unit we expect improvement from each season and it never really happens. But maybe this is the year.
McKinley, Clayborn, Jack Crawford, and Senat were all able to get pressure on Keenum throughout their time on the field on Thursday. Add in the consistent pressure Grady Jarrett is able to bring up the middle and (hopefully) a 2016-esque performance this year from Vic Beasley, and this defensive line may actually be able to make some noise this season.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that coverage was good enough on the play to give Senat time to get to Keenum. That’s going to be another key component to Atlanta’s pass rush, and if the secondary can cover as well as they’re capable of, it should give the pass rush more opportunities to disrupt opposing passers.
Atlanta is currently tied for ninth in the league with seven sacks this preseason. Granted, there’s only so much first-team work in there, and the Falcons (and Broncos, who are also tied for ninth in the league) did have an additional preseason game with the Hall of Fame Game. But still, a Top 10 ranking in sacks? Be still my heart.
The Falcons have plenty of talent and made smart moves in extending Grady Jarrett and bringing back Adrian Clayborn. Dan Quinn is the one calling the plays and working closely with players to put them in a position to succeed. Early indications suggest this will result in an improved pass rush. Here’s hoping that’s legitimate and not a preseason fluke.