Pressuring and sacking the quarterback has been an area that the Falcons haven’t had a lot of success doing as a whole in recent years. Actually, there hasn’t been a consistent pass rush since the John Abraham days. To their credit though, the front office has made an effort this offseason to add talent via Free Agency and the draft to boost the the front 4.
This will also be Coach Raheem Morris’ first full year as defensive coordinator, and the hope is that he can help this defense get to the next level. How big of a difference will these factors make when it comes to the Falcons defense’s overall sack numbers?
Since Dan Quinn’s tenure as Head Coach, the defense’s sack numbers have been incredibly inconsistent. Since 2015, the defense has averaged 31.4 sacks per year. That ranks near the bottom of the league during that time frame. To say the defense has underperformed is an understatement. Given the average over the past 5 years, I’ll set the baseline at 31 sacks.
Case for the over
The Falcons have made a conscious effort to increase the talent of the defense this offseason. Brought in as an FA, Dante Fowler had his best season last season by accumulating 11.5 sacks. He could possibly finally be what he was expected to be when he was drafted, especially if he can build on last year.
Through the draft, the Falcons brought in Marlon Davidson as well to rush inside along with Grady Jarrett, who is already a monster on the field. Also include the fact that there are some forgotten players like Cominsky, who could be a productive contributor, and Allen Bailey, who could be resurgent, this could be a unit that can be effective for the defense as a whole.
Case for the under
Although the defensive line, on paper, appears to be more talented, there’s a lot of youth and inexperience in the secondary. The same can be said for the linebacking corps. Because of that, the main question will be if the coverage is good enough to allow the DL time to accumulate sacks.
We all know that the most effective way to negate a pass rush is with quick timed passing. Coach Morris has been known in his career to run more zone concepts, so it also remains to be seen if he will have the Cornerbacks press more to throw off the rhythm and timing of the offense to get that DL more time to get to the QB. There’s also the factor as of right now, the only consistent rusher is Grady Jarrett. There’s no guarantee that Fowler will have another big year and Takk McKinley has yet to have that big year, even if he’s been quietly productive.
So what are your thoughts? Do we see an uptick in production in regards to sacks? There is some talent there up front, but will the defense work as a better unit, or will we see the same type of inconsistency in 2020?