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Question of the Week: Who will be the Falcons' sack leader in 2024? 

Atlanta won't have its top two sack producers from 2023 on the roster, but the Falcons have a deep and diverse group of pass rushers pushing to prove themselves. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons finished with their most team sacks since the 2004 season last year, but after some key departures and new additions there are still lingering external questions about how the team will generate a pass rush.

It's possible that a true star emerges from this group. On paper, though, the strengths of Atlanta's pass rush is depth and versatility. That points to a large number of players recording sacks this season, which makes today's question a lot of fun.

Who is going to pace the Falcons in sacks this fall? Our writers have some thoughts.

Tori McElhaney: I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I've been waiting for Arnold Ebiketie to burst onto the scene.

His development has been gradual and, perhaps, if you blink you would miss it. But the potential the Falcons saw in him when they drafted him in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft is still there, just simmering below the surface. I think 2024 may be the year it boils over.

Not too long ago, I spoke to Falcons assistant director of college scouting Dwuane Jones for our Coffee With The Falcons video series. I found it interesting that Ebiketie came up during our conversation about how a lot of the Falcons recent draft picks had to come in and play immediately based on the needs of the team at the time.

"I think we had consensus on Ebiketie when he first came out," Jones said. "There was passion for him and there was a vision for him. It gets to a point where it's like, 'All right, now we gotta go get him.' … It's funny how we develop, though, and we all develop in different ways, but if you don't have instant success in Year 1, it's like, 'Aww, he can't play. He's a failure.' Year 2, he's kind of steady, but, 'Aww he can't play.' But it takes time, and by Year 3 or Year 4, they're players and now what? Do you get credit for that?"

I remember holding onto this response then, and I bring it back now to say this: Ebiketie has been developing his skills, expanding his tool kit and getting significant live reps. Is 2024 the year we see all of the work of the last two years pay off? If so, it may be a win for the Falcons.

Will McFadden: I was surprised to learn during my research for this question that Grady Jarrett has only led the Falcons in sacks once during his nine-year career. It just feels like he's paced the group more than just the 2022 season, right? Well, I like him to do it again this year, even coming off a serious injury.

Although, the Falcons are switching back to a base 3-4 defense, which would typically hinder an interior players chances to garner sacks, I think Jarrett is still poised to thrive. For starters, the last time Atlanta had a base 3-4 look was that 2022 season when Jarrett had six sacks. And don't get too caught up in the "3-4" of it all. These fronts are going to look and play differently throughout each game, and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake is going to get Jarrett some advantageous situations.

For my closing argument, I'll direct your attention to the 2023 Los Angeles Rams defense. Rookie defensive tackle Kobie Turner led the Rams with nine sacks last season, while future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Donald finished one spot behind him with eight. That's two defensive tackles who led the Rams in sacks last season when Lake and Raheem Morris were on the staff.

Jarrett is a staple of this franchise in every sense of the word. His work ethic is peerless, his leadership is first-class. It would be a truly fitting end to the first major rehabilitation of his career if Jarrett once again finished the year as king of the sack pile.

Terrin Waack: Honestly, this is a tough question to answer considering both of last season's sack leaders are no longer in Atlanta. Defensive end Calais Campbell and outside linebacker Bud Dupree led with 6.5 sacks, apiece. Either of them would have been an easy pick here, but alas.

I'm going to go with inside linebacker Kaden Elliss. He had four sacks last season, the third-best total on the team. I know he has more in him, though, because Elliss had a career-high seven sacks during his breakout season in 2022 with the New Orleans Saints. He only truly got the full-time starting nod after Pete Werner got injured in Week 9 meaning Elliss was still able to produce that count in an otherwise limited role on the defense.

Last year was Elliss' first in Atlanta. That alone was an adjustment. Then, fellow starter Troy Andersen got hurt in Week 3 and missed the remainder of the season. Nate Landman filled in. So, that was another adjustment for Elliss.

Now, with a season under his belt and both Andersen and Landman healthy, watch Elliss truly thrive.

Amna Subhan: That void created by the departure of Campbell and Dupree presents a prime opportunity for Zach Harrison to step up. It's perhaps a slight stretch to outright say Harrison will lead Atlanta in sacks in his second year, but I'm a sucker for an underdog.

The former third-round pick recorded three sacks last year, and they all came in the last few weeks of the season. In fact, after earning the first sack of his career in Week 16 against Carolina, he notched his first two-sack game the very next week against Indianapolis. He showed he was hungry for more and could explode given the chance.

In his rookie season, Harrison sat behind Campbell on the depth chart, allowing him to learn directly from the 16-year veteran. That experience, along with a full NFL season under his belt, gives Harrison an upper hand over the three defensive linemen the Falcons drafted in April. Still, it's possible the snap count will be spread around like the previous season. Campbell played 62% of defensive snaps in 2023 while Harrison participated in 32%. I'd expect that number to jump for the former third-round pick along with Harrison's sack total. Regardless of the final count, Harrison should take a healthy next step forward. And, who knows, he may just end up topping the team in sacks.

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