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Can we expect mild improvement in the Falcons pass rush, we ask sadly

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Modest gains, at least. We hope.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons had 28 sacks in 2019. I can’t overstate how unproductive the pass rush was, because they finished with their lowest sack total since 2015. That was the year Dan Quinn first arrived in Atlanta and the cupboard was bare on defense, which...does not reflect well on the job this team did a year ago.

There’s more to a pass rush than just sacks, of course, but in this case it told a pretty compelling story about how good the Falcons were about getting after opposing quarterbacks. That means that 2020 is, in all likelihood, a bounceback year for this pass rush, at least on paper. They can go lower but the addition of Dante Fowler and Marlon Davidson in place of Vic Beasley and Atlanta’s interior options a year ago probably means they will not.

So what kind of production should we expect from this Falcons pass rush next year? The Falcons are losing 14.5 sacks and 26 quarterback hits from the likes of Vic Beasley, Jack Crawford, and Adrian Clayborn, but they’re picking up 12 sacks and 22 quarterback hits from Fowler and Charles Harris. Given that Marlon Davidson is almost certainly going to be at least a mild upgrade in the middle of the defense, I’m willing to bet the team comes out a little bit ahead of their lousy 2019 total because a healthy Takk is playing for his next contract, Fowler should be an upgrade on Beasley, and even mild improvements in the secondary should help the pass rush get home.

Of course, you hear me talking myself into small improvements that are not guaranteed all the way here. Chances are the Falcons aren’t clearing 40 sacks in 2020, and frankly they’re going to need a lot of ifs to break their way just to clear 30. If the team can get more pressure and actually cobble together a competent defense next year, I doubt I’ll be complaining.