Dean Pees may truly be the key to turning around the Falcons. Head coach Arthur Smith will be instrumental in ironing out the issues with the offense. However, he does have an established quarterback, multiple high-end pass catchers, and an offensive line with plenty of talent. The offense is certain to be, at worst, pretty good.
Pees, on the other hand, does not have as much to work with. Even the most optimistic fan would struggle to suggest the defense will be pretty good. There remain huge questions in terms of the pass rush and the secondary.
The newly unretired defensive coordinator will have his work cut out for him. Yet he did not sound too worried when he talked to 92.9 The Game on Wednesday. After all, the veteran coach won Super Bowls as the defensive coordinator of two different teams, finding success for decades with varying levels of talent.
Maybe Pees’ confidence comes from not knowing what the defense has looked like in the last few years. He admitted he didn’t know much about Atlanta’s defense when he was being courted for the job. Maybe Smith knew the less Pees knew about the defense, the better.
“I didn’t really study scheme, because I don’t really care...I feel like we got a lot of guys who can run and hit.”
Pees’ comments would be concerning if he was a rookie coordinator. However, his optimism is a welcome sign after we’ve watched this defense mostly be an anchor on the team over the past decade.
“You can coach a lot of things, but you can’t coach speed and you can’t coach courage,” Pees said. Former head coach Dan Quinn always looked for players who could run and hit, as well, but was never able to consistently get those players to succeed outside of Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Ricardo Allen and a handful of others. Pees does not sound concerned he will fall into the same boat as the now Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator.
Falcons DC Dean Pees on the pass rush:— 92.9 The Game (@929TheGame) May 26, 2021
"We heard the same thing when we went to Tennessee, we have no pass rush. And yet we were a good 3rd down defense and got a lot of pressure. We need smart guys & we got smart guys. We're going to come from everywhere every week, so hang on"
Pees had particularly high praise for Grady Jarrett, comparing him favorably to Jurrell Casey. He said Jarrett won’t be a 3 technique exclusively taking on double teams, and that “it’s my job” to put him in a position to thrive.
What Pees and this coaching staff can get out of the talent on this roster is going to matter a great deal. The team showed flashes of defensive competency under Raheem Morris, and if Pees can build on that and get a consistently useful unit going, the Falcons are that much more likely to be competitive. Can Pees bring some of the magic he had with the Patriots, Ravens, and Titans to Atlanta? We’re only a few months away from finding out.