Each offseason, every NFL team focuses on at least one area in need of an upgrade. So what aspect of the Atlanta Falcons is looking better these days?
Training camp begins later this month for all 32 NFL teams. So that means another preview series from End Zone Score. Dating back to early March, we have taken time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers and previewed an up-and-coming player for each franchise.
Contrary to popular opinions, no team in the league is perfect. That’s why there’s a constant search for talent when it comes to this game. Each club has done its best to bolster its roster. So in this instance, we are going to take a glance at each franchise and pinpoint the department in which it made the most strides this offseason. We have looked at the AFC East, NFC East, AFC North, NFC North and AFC South. We start the NFC South with the defending conference champion Atlanta Falcons.
The taste of that 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI must still be in the mouthpieces of the Atlanta Falcons. Squandering a 25-point third-quarter lead in any game isn’t something you forget easily. Yet head coach Dan Quinn must do his best to get his team not to dwell in the past.
Getting after opposing quarterbacks has been an issue for this club for quite some times. But wait. You may be asking yourself a couple of questions. Didn’t Vic Beasley lead the NFL in sacks in 2016? And didn’t the Falcons’ pass rush drop Brady five times in the Super Bowl? Both answers are yes. But Atlanta still finished with a mediocre 34 sacks as a team. The club hasn’t totaled at least 40 QB traps in a season since way back in 2004. And while the team did drop Brady on five occasions in that memorable setback, the last of those came with about eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
All told, there’s still work to be done when it comes to this defense – especially upfront. The Falcons need to find a compliment to Beasley, who transitioned to outside linebacker before the start of 2017. Hence the team moved up a few spots in April’s draft to grab UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley. He’s still on the mend after surgery earlier this year and the team hopes to see him on the field soon. Atlanta also inked free-agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs, as well as veteran end Jack Crawford (Dallas Cowboys). Keep in mind that Quinn’s club was a mediocre 17th vs. the run this past season as well. Pairing Poe with Grady Jarrett inside could add up to some big things.
Having Adrian Clayborn healthy would be a big plus. He totaled 4.5 sacks in ’16 but suffered a torn biceps in the divisional playoffs. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-round pick rejoins ends such as Brooks Reed and two-year pro Ra’Shede Hageman.
The Atlanta Falcons have built a defensive front that now features a bit of depth. The additions of Poe, Crawford and McKinley, as well as the continued development of Jarrett, bodes well for this group.