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Falcons defensive front preview: Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Bud Dupree will help Grady Jarrett try to generate pressure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Ryan Nielsen was asked at his introductory press conference about the Falcons well-known issues rushing the passer.

The new defensive coordinator's answer was a simple one.

"We'll get it going," Nielsen said with a smile.

There's reason for confidence. For one, he has had steady success getting after the quarterback as defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints.


Also, they haven't been as armed for that purpose as they are after this offseason. They added Calais Campbell, David Onyemata and Bud Dupree to the front. Oh, and they've still got Grady Jarrett.

There's more pass-rush prowess at the second level, too, with linebacker Kaden Elliss coming over from the New Orleans Saints after a seven-sack breakout campaign in 2023. Troy Andersen plays fast and aggressive football that could create opportunities as a blitzer.

They have options and depth that could help. We could also see improved play from Arnold Ebiketie in his second season, and maybe Nielsen gets a little more out of Lorenzo Carter.

I'm sure you've noticed a few conditionals in the content above. There's cause for optimism regarding an improved pass rush. There's potential for a stout a run defense with a massive front and fast, sideline-to-sideline linebackers. They'll also receive support from cornerbacks unafraid to mix it up against the run.

Nielsen doesn't play between the lines, but he made a quality first impression during the offseason program and has instilled confidence in his charges.

"Ryan is intense; he's a great guy, though," Dupree said. "Very learned. He knows a ton about football, which is something I found out despite the short amount of time I've been with him. He's always trying to squeeze something out of the game for you so you can have a greater effect on the game. I like him as a coach, one of the better coaches in this league. Being here with him, I have so much respect for him."

Nielsen will oversee some competitions on the back of the depth chart, but there are more defensive locks than in recent years. Don't forget about Ta'Quon Graham and Eddie Goldman. They could make significant impacts, too. Because of increased depth, but there might be some tough cuts in the crew.

Same with the interior linebacker spot. Elliss and Andersen should be three-down types. Mykal Walker has tons of experience, and there might be a bunch battling for one or two spots depending on overall roster breakdown.

The overall goal along the line is to develop roles and a dependable rotation that keeps folks fresh. There's leadership all over, especially with Jarrett and Campbell.

There's plenty of optimism within the group about how the defensive front can play. It's warranted. Now they must go execute.

"I feel like this is a high-level unit," Dupree said during the offseason program, "that could be near the top if we execute to our ability."

Take a look at our defensive players from the 2023 Atlanta Falcons Creative Days.

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