Atlanta Falcons ‘Drastic Turnaround’ Defense Lands in Top 12

Falcons defense

Getty ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Zach Ertz #86 of the Philadelphia Eagles is tackled by the defense of the Atlanta Falcons.

With only 28 sacks last season, the Atlanta Falcons ranked 2nd to last in the NFL in sacks. This season is expected to look a little bit different.

The Falcons were aggressive during the offseason and signed on a handful of sack monsters, making them one of the most feared defenses in the league.

Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar ranked the Falcons at No. 11. out of all 32 teams. Farrar didn’t just emphasize the changes the Falcons made in the offseason, but also their turnaround during the second half of the season last year.

Falcons’ Drastic Turnaround in 2019

Falcons were 1-7 at the midway point of the season and finished with a strong 6-2 finish. This was mainly due to the fact that head coach Dan Quinn handed the reigns over to Raheem Morris and let him call the shots.

Farrar expects the Falcons to pick up right where they left off:

The Falcons had as drastic a defensive turnaround as any team in the 2019 season, which occurred when now-defensive coordinator Raheem Morris took a more pronounced role. From Weeks 10-9, Atlanta gave up 24 passing touchdowns and came up with just two interceptions. From Weeks 10-17, the difference was graphic — just nine touchdowns allowed, and 10 interceptions. The team lost cornerback Desmond Trufant in free agency, but selected Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first round, and Terrell is a much better player than he showed in his team’s loss in the College Football Championship. Expect this defense to play far more to its talent with Morris firmly in charge.

Turnaround Rankings

To put the ‘drastic’ turnaround into perspective, here’s where the Falcons ranked in the first eight games (per AtlantaFalcons.com):

  • Third-down conversion percentage: No. 32 (53%)
  • Points allowed per game: No. 31 (29.6)
  • Total QB rating: No. 31 (117.3)
  • Red zone touchdown percentage: No. 32 (66%)
  • Total takeaways: No. 32 (2)

Here are where the Falcons ranked in the second half of the season:

  • Third-down conversion percentage: No. 1 (38%)
  • Points allowed per game: No. 5 (16.9)
  • Total QB rating: No. 5 (78.7)
  • Red zone touchdown percentage: No. 5 (38%)
  • Total takeaways: No. 7 (13)

Falcons Defense Has Six Former First-Rounders

Atlanta’s defense, with the addition of Dante Fowler, AJ Terrell, Charles Hariss, and Deonne Bucannon has six former first-round starters.

  • Safety/Linebacker: Deonne Bucannon
  • Defensive End: Takkarist McKinley
  • Defensive End: Dante Fowler
  • Cornerback: AJ Terrell
  • Safety: Keanu Neal
  • Linebacker: Charles Harris

There are just five projected starters on Atlanta’s defense that weren’t former first-round picks. Defensive end Allen Bailey went in the third round, defensive tackles Tyeler Davison and Grady Jarrett were taken in the fifth, and linebacker Deion Jones and cornerback Isaiah Oliver were second-round picks.

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Falcons Draft Grady Jarrett’s Twin

Dan Quinn emphasized over and over on wanting to get more pass rush from the interior. The Falcons turned to former Auburn DT standout, Marlon Davidson as their new weapon. This man is quick for his size and hungry to get to the QB.

Ultimately, the Falcons just added another Grady Jarrett.

Jarrett is 303 pounds and Davidson is about the same size. They both have size 10 hands and both have nimble feet. They know how to shoot gaps and disrupt the run and can apply quarterback pressure inside which the Falcons are looking to improve greatly. They also each have that constant “go, go, go” personality.

Jarrett, of course, has turned into an All-Pro. As for Davidson, we’ll have to wait and see. Either way, the opposing offense is in for a real treat with two Grady Jarretts on the line.

READ NEXT: Falcons’ FB Stoked to Block for Todd Gurley: ‘He’s Got a Ton of Game Left in Him’

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