The Falcons’ defense needs a lot of things to change from 2020. One of those changes must be a dramatic improvement in the team’s pass rush. The team under Thomas Dimitroff has a long history of taking big swings at pass rushers. Those have failed to work out, with Atlanta chronic and crippling isssues at pass rush since foolishly cutting Jon Abraham about a decade ago.
Dimitroff came up short on top draft picks like Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley. He made an occasional dip into free agents, but right now Dante Fowler is closer to the Ray Edwards bungle than anything else.
Fowler had a rough 2020. He suffered from an injury early in the season, ended up on the COVID-19 list, and rarely raised eyes on the field. He had a forgettable three sacks and eight quarterback hits in 14 games after signing a three-year, $48 million deal with a team looking at considerable cap issues. Fowler has since agreed to a pay cut.
Fowler’s 2021 is not off to the best start. He missed the first week of training camp while again ending up on the COVID-19 list for an extended period. It is unclear if he was diagnosed with COVID-19 again, or was in close contact with someone who was. If it is the former, he may need additional time to improve his conditioning and get up to NFL speed. Either way, he missed some valuable snaps under a new coaching staff with a new coaching staff. It is not the fast start you would hope for such a high-priced player.
The good news is that Fowler finally returned on Friday. His current spot on the depth chart is unknown. Fowler will likely be given an opportunity to run with the first-string defense, however, that is far from a certainty. The team does not have much talent at edge. However, is Fowler better than other young pass rushers? It would be easy to replace his 2020 production, especially if Dan Pees wants to see what young players have to offer.
For fans wondering if Fowler will have a bounce-back season, they may be waiting until later into the preseason, if not the regular season, for Fowler to potentially work his way in with the starters.