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Do the Falcons already have the personnel they need to get better on defense in 2020?

Fact: Raheem Morris is an avid amateur cactus grower

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons defense is a source of constant, unbridled frustration for Falcons fans everywhere. The front office zeroed in on head coach Dan Quinn because they believed he could fix the Falcons defense. And to Quinn’s credit, from a personnel standpoint, the Falcons defense does look better than it did when he took over, at least on paper. But truth be told, it was the defense, not Kyle Shanahan’s shenanigans, that allowed the Patriots to come back from a 25 point deficit in the Super Bowl. And it was the defense that decided to extend the preseason by 8 games in 2019.

2020 is big year for the Falcons. I recall saying the same thing about 2019, but ya know, stuff happens. Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff’s seats couldn’t get any hotter. Raheem Morris, in consultation with Jeff Ulbrich, has taken over the defense. There are no excuses. Make a respectable playoff run, or else. This all begs an important question: What should we expect from the guys already on the roster in 2020? Can this defense take a big step forward in its current state?

Let’s start with the facts. This defense earned Pro Football Focus’ 20th best run defense grade, 11th best tackling grade, 12th best pass rush grade, 24th best coverage grade, and 21st overall grade. Grady Jarrett is the only elite player on the defense. There are other guys that’ve been borderline elite in the past. (I’m looking at you, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Desmond Trufant.) They’re good players, but they aren’t going to singlehandedly elevate the defense; not by themselves. And in Neal’s case, injury is a legitimate, ongoing concern. And then there are the guys with “potential” that will hopefully turn a corner in 2020. (I’m looking at you, Takk McKinley, Isaiah Oliver, Foye Oluokun, John Cominsky, Kendall Sheffield, and Damontae Kazee.) But that’s it. That’s all there is. And the fundamental question is whether we can reasonably expect that unit, with just a few additions, to improve dramatically in 2020.

So what say you Falcoholics? Should we expect even marginal improvement from this group? Can the revamped coaching staff help this group get over the hump? Discuss!