Falcons’ New Hire is Confident in Improving the Defense

Takk McKinley

getty ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 26: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is sacked by Takkarist McKinley #98 of the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Atlanta Falcons’ new hire is Tosh Lupoi as the defensive line coach/run game coordinator. He addressed the media for the first time on Tuesday.

Lupoi has a lot of pressure on him this season to help turn the defense around especially at sacking the quarterback. With only 28 sacks on the entire season, the Falcons ranked second to last in the NFL in sacks.

“We’re going to make it happen,” Lupoi told the media.

Lupoi doesn’t seem to have any interest in the statistical side of things, his focus is on helping the players.

“I’m going to tell you right now, I’m not so much going to focus on numbers and end results as much as the process that it takes to get there,” Lupoi said.

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Lupoi Has A Lot to Prove

The Falcons hired Lupoi back in January.

Before coming to Atlanta, Lupoi spent the 2019 season as the Cleveland Browns‘ defensive line coach. The Browns ranked 20th in the NFL with 38 sacks on the season. Their run defense allowed an abysmal 144.7 rushing yards per game and 5 rushing yards per play last season which ranked 30th in the NFL.

Lupoi also spent five seasons as a member of the defensive staff at Alabama under Nick Saban. He first spent time as an analyst then began to work with the team’s outside linebackers. In 2016 he was named co-defensive coordinator.

With Lupoi’s contribution, Alabama’s defense finished as the best scoring in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2018 he was named defensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide in 2018. By the end of the 2018 season, Alabama had the 12th-best scoring defense and registered the fifth-most sacks in the country.

Turning Takk McKinley Around

A main focal point for Lupoi will be working with Takk McKinley who will be returning (we think) after his second shoulder surgery. It will be a hefty project for Lupoi to turn McKinley back into a sack monster, but he is confident.

McKinley has a $3.25 million cap hit this year. If his option is not picked up, the 2020 season will be the end of his rookie contract.

Drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft, McKinley has become the ultimate competitor over his three years as a Falcon. He’s constantly pressuring the quarterback but isn’t consistent in finishing the job.

McKinley has played in a total of 45 games with 21 starts. He has 16.5 sacks, including a high of 7.0 in 2018. He tried to play through his shoulder injury and finished with 3.5 sacks before have to step off the field and get surgery. This will be his third shoulder surgery.

The Falcons don’t have a lot of spending room unless the CBA is ratified. McKinley is affordable, but come a draft day the Falcons could get a deal for someone younger and healthier.

If Lupoi and McKinley want to stay in Atlanta, they will need to prove themselves worthy this season.

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