When Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones was asked what his first impressions of Dante Fowler have been, he quickly answered with a big smile on his face.
Although the two players have yet to take the practice fields together or sit in a meeting room with one another, Fowler is well on his way to winning his teammates over.
"I think Dante is going to be a great addition to the team," Jones said. "He brings a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. I love his dog mentality on the edge. Just having him on the team, having the energy and juice on the defense, I can't wait to see him out there with his hair out having fun."
After finishing the 2019 season with just 28 sacks, the Falcons signed Fowler in free agency in hopes to improve their pass rush.
Fowler, 25, is coming off his best season to date after recording 11.5 sacks with the Los Angeles Rams. The former first-round pick said he expects to put up double-digit sacks with the Falcons.
"In order to be the best edge rusher in the league, you have to put up double-digits [sacks] every year," Fowler said. "That's my job, that's my goal to be consistent every year come out with double digits."
Jones and Fowler's production in the upcoming season will play a huge role in Atlanta's success on defense.
The Falcons hope to build off the strides the defensive unit made in the final eight games of the 2019 season.
After starting the season 1-7, Falcons coach Dan Quinn made a few changes on his coaching staff. Quinn moved Raheem Morris from wide receivers coach to the defensive side of the ball to work primarily with the defensive backs. The Falcons won six of their last eight games and finished 7-9 on the year.
Morris and linebackers and assistant head coach, Jeff Ulbrich, split play-calling duties. Ulbrich was responsible for play-calling duties on first and second down and Morris called third down and red zone defense and was promoted to defensive coordinator following the season.
To put the magnitude of the turnaround into perspective, here's a few key stats from the last eight games of the season:
Third-down conversion percentage: No. 1 (38%)
- Points allowed per game: No. 5 (16.9)
- Total QB rating: No. 5 (78.7)
- Red zone touchdown percentage: No. 5 (38%)
- Total takeaways: No. 7 (13)
Here's where the Falcons ranked in these five categories in the first eight games:
- Third-down conversion percentage: No. 32 (53%)
- Points allowed per game: No. 31 (29.6)
- Total QB rating: No. 31 (117.3)
- Red zone touchdown percentage: No. 32 (66%)
- Total takeaways: No. 32 (2)