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“Turnovers? What are those?” asks the Falcons defense headed into 2020

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Fact: Raheem Morris sleeps with a small stuffed penguin named “Moose”

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

The Falcons defense had a rough first half in 2019. Then came the bye week. Whether it was the decision to hand the keys over to Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris and Linebackers Coach/Assistant Head Coach Jeff Ulbrich or the looming threat of jobs lost that willed that defense into appearing competent for 8 games, the results spoke for themselves. If one thing is undeniably true, it’s that headed into the 2020 season, Morris and Ulbrich will have to find a way to generate more turnovers.

The importance of turnover differential cannot be overstated. It might actually be one of the most important predictors of a team’s wins and losses. The Falcons will be hard pressed to enjoy any kind of turnaround in 2020 if they can’t get their turnover differential under control.

In 2019, the Falcons’ turnover differential was -5. (Only the Browns, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Panthers, Bengals, Chargers, and Giants had worse turnover differentials.) The Falcons’ turnover differential was +1 in 2018 and -2 in 2017. So what went so horribly awry in 2019?

Aside from a surplus of turnovers on offense, the Falcons did have some bad luck in their attempt to generate turnovers on defense. Their defense generated 12 interceptions (17th), 17 forced fumbles (7th), and 8 fumble recoveries (21st). I’m not sure why they only recovered half of the fumbles they forced, but bad luck must’ve played some role. By contrast, in 2018, the Falcons defense generated 15 interceptions (9th), 8 forced fumbles (28th), and 4 fumble recoveries (31st). And in 2017, they generated 8 interceptions (29th), 12 forced fumbles (18th), and 8 fumble recoveries (18th).

I have to think the turnovers on offense (15 interceptions and 10 fumbles in 2019) will improve in 2020. They weren’t nearly as bad about giving away the ball (7 interceptions and 11 fumbles) in 2018. If they do see some marginal improvement or regression to the mean with respect to giveaways, it will go a long way toward remedying their lackluster turnover differential in 2020. And again, it seems like they just had some bad luck when it came to recovering fumbles in 2019.

At the end of the day, with a draft that infused considerable talent into the defense in the rear view mirror, it’s not crazy to expect some real improvement with respect to the defense’s ability to generate turnovers in 2020. Or at least that’s what I’ve led myself to believe.

Your thoughts, Falcoholics?