The Falcons made the pass rush a focal point by having two of the seven rookies drafted be edge rushers, with Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone set to compete for prominent positions in training camp. The pass rush could definitely use the help.
Late last season, Dean Pees emphasized improving the pass rush, which hurt the Falcons in crucial moments.
"The thing that we've really got to develop in the offseason for next year is the ability to rush the passer," Pees said last year. "and not always having to pressure to do it."
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Can the Falcons improve rushing the passer with some new players in the mix? That will be a major storyline to following during Falcons training camp.
Grady Jarrett, who led this defensive front seven, was getting double-teamed, if not tripled-teamed at times. That can't happen this season. There must be another threat to free Jarrett up, helping him to go one-on-one against defenders more often. Ta'Quon Graham, who improved during in his rookie campaign last season and showed speed and athleticism but must build on what he already has established last season.
Even with having him as a projected starter, Graham and Marlon Davidson will be competing for the defensive lineman position opposite of Jarrett, who in Davidson hasn't really gotten the chance to show what he could produce for this defense. This goes back to guys staying healthy throughout the entire course of the season. That was also a major factor in why this pass rush struggled last season. There were constant adjustments being made on defense.
With so many young guys now on the roster, this could be a shift in the right direction for this defense, and specifically the pass rush. How will the rookies perform this year in Pees' hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme? Can Lorenzo Carter come in and make an immediate impact in this pass rush defense? Pees talked about bringing in outside talent, and not necessarily talent that can be coached. Carter could potentially be that player Pees was talking about.
Arnold Ebiketie will have all eyes on him. The Penn State product proved why he was the Falcons' second pick in this year's draft class. During his senior campaign, he had 62 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, and finished third in sacks in the Big Ten conference. He has the size, speed, and athleticism to be a threat. He showed that in his lone year at Penn State. Once the pads are on, there will be a better sense of how his game translates to the NFL.
Carter will be looked upon to produce at an even higher level than in he did with the Giants in 2021. He has 14.5 sacks in his career and had five total last season. This number needs to increase significantly for this pass rush to be effective. His veteran experience alongside a young Ebiketie could be just what the Falcons need as they are currently in this transitional stage.
And don't forget out Ade Ogundeji. The second-year Notre Dame product showed flashes last year and could be a factor rushing the passer in 2022.
The talent is certainly there in Jarrett, Carter, Graham, Ogundeji and Ebiketie. Malone could be a factor in the sub package, coming in off the edge.
If everyone stays healthy, this group could potentially establish themselves as a solid pass rush. Outside of Jarrett, there is still uncertainty on exactly who will be the primary pass rushers, but with the depth on Pees' defense shows that there could be a improvement in this area over last season.
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