Every year, we ask some variation of this simple question about the team’s sack total for the upcoming season. Every season, there’s a little flame of optimism that is quickly smothered by reality.
As Daniel Flick pointed out recently, the Falcons haven’t ranked in the top ten for sacks amongst NFL teams since 2004, a year I remember fondly. In many of the years since—too many, really—they’ve been among the bottom ten. The past couple of years have been particularly brutal, with the team’s humble sack totals reflecting a pretty punchless pass rush.
This offseason, the Falcons have put some of their newly available cap space toward that particular problem. Kaden Elliss (7 2022 sacks), Calais Campbell (5.5), and Bud Dupree (4) have joined this defense, which also boasts a handful of young and promising options like Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. That plus a retooled secondary and the fact that this pass rush produced just 21 sacks a year ago means there’s nowhere to go but up. Expecting the Falcons to finish in the top half of the league in sacks is not outlandish, even if typing that makes me feel uneasy given how poorly this team has fared for...well, a long while.
Expecting them to be one of the league’s top pass rushes, though, will mean counting on a new defensive coordinator getting immediate results, growth from multiple young players, good health and high-level production for Campbell and Dupree, and Elliss turning in something in the ballpark of his 2022 career year. Not everything can or will break right, and it likely needs to for the Falcons to turn heads in this particular aspect. Given that teams ranking in the 20s for sack totals last season had 35+, the more realistic expectation is that the Falcons are improved and no longer among the league’s most feckless pass rushes. That would be welcome progress.
I’ll say they’ll hit 33 this season, but I’d like your answer. How many sacks will the Falcons finish with in 2023?