The Falcons pass rush has been a punchline forever, and with good reason. With the exception of a handful of solid years, Atlanta has largely impacted the quarterback as frequently as I have from the comfort of my home on Sundays, which is to say not very much at all.
The team hit what we all hope is rock bottom in 2021, putting up a measly 18 sacks. That was 11 whole sacks less than the Eagles, who had the second-fewest in the NFL, and only one player had more than two on the year. That player, Dante Fowler, is now on the Cowboys.
It was evident the Falcons needed to make an improved pass rush a priority, and to their credit, they did. Lorenzo Carter was one of the marquee signings of a low-key free agency period, and the Falcons drafted a pair of really intriguing young talents in Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. It’s not going to be enough to lift them into one of the better pass rushing teams in the league, but it should lead to progress in 2022, and progress is the theme of the season.
Naturally, while we’re getting excited about seeing some real improvement for the pass rush, we’ll be considering who might lead the team in sacks this upcoming season. So let’s ask that question now: Who will lead the team in sacks?
There are several candidates to consider here. Grady Jarrett is one of them, because he had averaged nearly six sacks per season from 2018-2020 before a quiet one sack campaign in 2021. Carter is another, given that he piled up five sacks at the end of last season and is both young and talented enough to make some noise. You’d also want to throw Ebiketie and Malone in there, given that neither one will lack for opportunities to chase down quarterbacks in 2022. Dark horse candidates would be second-year pro Ta’Quon Graham, third-year veteran Marlon Davidson, and perhaps Adetokunbo Ogundeji if he takes a major step forward.
Personally, my money’s on Ebiketie, who is the most promising pass rusher the Falcons have drafted in a little while. Ebiketie is more or less guaranteed a major role in a fairly thin outside linebacker group, seems pro-ready enough to make a year one impact, and certainly seems to have more upside than anyone else in the group. Am I betting too heavily on rookies in this series? Perhaps, but it’s not difficult for me to see this class making a major impact right away.
Who would you choose?