MOBILE, Ala. – In order for the Atlanta Falcons to get back to playing championship-level football next season, CBSSports.com NFL analyst Pete Prisco says it will come down to two things: Protecting Matt Ryan and playing better defense.
"First and foremost, protect the quarterback," Prisco said. "I think defense will be better when guys get healthy again. They just need to get better up front."
Ryan was sacked 42 times in the 2018 season, the eighth most in the NFL. With the No. 14 overall pick in the draft this year, Prisco believes the Falcons will invest in an offensive lineman.
"Judging by the as many times as Matt Ryan got hit, they better get some offensive linemen," Prisco said. "That's become an issue for them and they need to improve the front. I think they have to get some offensive line help."
In hopes to getting his unit playing better in 2019, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has taken over as defensive coordinator. Atlanta finished the year with the 25th-ranked run defense and was No. 27th against the pass.
Under Quinn's leadership and the return of injured starters Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, Atlanta's defense will be expected to improve next year.
In addition to focusing on bolstering their offensive and defensive lines through the draft and free agency, another top priority for the Falcons is re-signing defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff has said this is a primary focus for the team this offseason. Jarrett is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 13.
Jarrett was Atlanta's most consistent player up front in the 2018 season as he finished the year with 52 tackles, eight for loss, six sacks and 18 quarterback hits.
Prisco agrees this is a necessary move for the Falcons.
"I would make sure I got Grady Jarrett back," Prisco said. "He's a heck of a football player. I've liked him since he came out of the draft. He's one of my favorite guys. Make sure you get it done.