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Falcons Pass Rush Looking Much-Improved

It's never wise to put a lot of stock in preseason action. The sample of plays that actually matter are too small to make any concrete assessments; the general mindset, which prioritizes evaluation and experimentation over winning, makes it difficult to draw any worthwhile conclusions.

But at the same time, it's hard not to get excited about the way Atlanta's pass rush has looked of late—especially on Friday in the Meadowlands. For the second straight game, the first-team defense regularly applied pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and by doing so kept the Jets at bay for each of their first five possessions.

The most encouraging takeaway here is Atlanta didn't rely on any one player to bring the heat. Rookie Vic Beasley, Jr. has been as good as advertised, if not better; Adrian Clayborn, drafted 11th overall in 2011, has made a lot of noise with his versatility and explosiveness. They've looked fantastic next to each other, as evident from the play below, in which Clayborn brings down Ryan Fitzpatrick for the sack.

"It was good to see Vic play fast," Dan Quinn told Dave Archer after the game, via ESPN. "It was good to see him and Adrian—they're getting their timing and their chemistry together over on that right side."

And how about Jonathan Babineaux? Quinn may be one of the best things to ever happen to the Falcons' longest-tenured defender. Atlanta's new playbook undoubtedly suits the DT, and it's easy to see why. Babineaux is built for the 4-3 formation, and despite his age, he still has the quickness and strength needed to create disruption between the tackles. This was clear when he took down Chris Ivory for a four-yard loss in the opening quarter.

"I love this system," he said. "I think everyone in the system will play well to the best of their ability.

"We wanted to come out and play our style of football. We got to the ball and tried to harass the quarterback a few times in the backfield and tried to make some plays."

A little bit further down the totem pole, Stansly Maponga continues to impress at DE. The TCU product has two sacks thus far in the preseason—one last week, one on Friday—the latter of which resulted in a Bryce Petty fumble.

The Falcons face the Jets on Friday night in their second preseason game of the season at MetLife Stadium. Here are pictures from the game.

Depth along the D-line is a huge reason why Quinn's defense fared so well in Seattle. By having a surplus of quality options, he was able to keep everyone fresh while consistently wreaking havoc. If Maponga can build on his recent success, it'll go a long way towards giving Quinn the extensive talent he wants along his front seven.

"He has done a good job, and it was great to see him get the rush," Quinn said of Maponga. "And I think he's really improved on special teams. It's been a big emphasis with him and coach (Keith) Armstrong going through it. That's also a role for him too, how can he play on (special) teams? He's playing on punt (coverage); he's playing on kickoff. He's working at it hard."

Quinn mentioned he wants the third exhibition game—which takes place next Thursday in Miami—to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season. This means the defense will get its first extended opportunity to prove its worth against quality competition. A convincing performance at Sun Life Stadium would breed a lot of confidence heading into Week 1 and validate much of the optimism surrounding this unit.

"We will (treat it as a) mock week in terms of the game planning and preparation that goes into it," said Quinn. "The most important point is we want to get a function of how our week is going to go. It's new for some of the guys here in terms of how we're going to approach the week (and) what happens on which day.

"We're really wanting to get that process down. It's the first time going through that as a team."

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