The Falcons had 18 sacks last year. In three words: not good enough.
Everyone inside and outside the organization knows that's true. That's why the Falcons hit a hard reset at the edge rusher position. The Falcons drafted Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone in the first three rounds. They signed Lorenzo Carter.
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Those guys join Ade Ogundeji in a new-look position group trying to improve chaos creation from the outside. Grady Jarrett will have a say working from the defensive interior, looking to increase his sack total in 2022.
If the Falcons are to improve in creating pressure, who will make the biggest impact in that endeavor? That's what Scott (that's me, referring to myself in the third person) and Tori will ponder in this mid-summer Question of the Week.
Scott: Lorenzo Carter
I've made no secret of the fact I love the Lorenzo Carter signing. I think the University of Georgia product has all the tools required to thrive in this system. He's also here on a one-year prove it deal after four seasons with the New York Giants, supremely motivated to earn a longer-term deal with his hometown Falcons or someone else after a breakout season.
He's also going to get plenty of opportunity to cause trouble for opposing offenses, possibly as a three-down presence off the edge. Talent + opportunity + experience + coming home + motivation should = a big year for someone who had five sacks in his last four games of 2021.
Carter's internal expectations are also sky-high, which is a plus and a sign that he, too, believes he'll perform well for a Falcons team that needs spectacular and fundamentally sound, set-the-edge-type play from outside linebackers in 2022. He's the most experienced player in his position group, and the Falcons are counting on him to have a big season. I think he will.
Tori: Arnold Ebiketie
I knew upon Scott sending me this Question of the Week suggestion in our Slack channel that he was going to pick Lorenzo Carter. For as much as I've talked about the AJ Terrell/Casey Hayward pairing in the secondary, Scott has marked similar territory when it comes to Carter. So, I knew I couldn't pick Carter as my answer (as much as I would have liked to talk about a fellow Georgia grad, but I digress).
Instead, I am going to focus on Arnold Ebiketie, the player the Falcons moved up in the 2022 NFL Draft to acquire. Ebiketie has a long road ahead of him in 2022 as he will be heavily relied upon to help ground this pass rush. I am not saying that Ebiketie is going to be the one to strike immediate change coming off the edge, but I do think he should help once he gets his bearings in the league.
How long will that take, though? That's the question. Personally I could see Ebiketie taking on a more rotational role with fellow edge rushers Carter, Ade Ogundeji and DeAngelo Malone early on. However, I do believe that this could turn into a consistent starting role as the season progresses. And I think that's the right move for Ebiketie. His first year in the league could be a trial by fire for him, but the sooner the Falcons can get Ebiketie to a consistent starting-caliber performance the better.
Does this mean I believe Ebiketie is going to have a sack in every game of the first five weeks of his rookie season? No, absolutely not. But I do think that - in the long term - Ebiketie makes one of the biggest impacts at the position.
Big picture, Ebiketie is someone I could see kickstarting the production at this spot in 2023 and 2024. Learning the ways of the league in 2022 will be the start of that journey.