As the Falcons approach their Week 18 game hosting the Saints, the focus inside the building is on ruining their most hated rival’s playoff hopes. Even though they are no longer in contention for the playoffs, Falcons coaches and players are still so motivated, says Arthur Smith; however, the same cannot be said of Terry Fontenot, whose main responsibilities come from the field.
For fans and most of the front offices, the offseason has already started. The college and career outlook assessment process is a never-ending cycle that only gains media attention in the offseason. The Falcons will have plenty of holes to fill this spring with unreal turnover on the defensive end of the ball, but the offense isn’t without attrition either.
The Falcons ‘defense leads the entire league in terms of snaps from impending free agents, so Dean Pees’ unit is likely to be very different in 2022 than this season. Heading into the offseason, the Falcons likely have plenty of goals they want to achieve before the start of the 2022 season. The offensive line could use the upgrade; after all, no quarterback is more affected than Matt Ryan. The development of the line is directly linked to this.
Jalen Mayfield, Kaleb McGary, Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy could make this attack very different if they take the next step in their respective development. Ryan and Smith will likely come together to refine the scheme, but there’s a lot more to the defensive end of the ball.
Dean Pees’ unit registered just 17 sacks, by far the lowest total in the league; in fact, there are several players – TJ Watt and Robert Quinn – with more individual sacks than the Falcons as a team. If you can’t protect your quarterback or pursue the opposing quarterback, there will never be a lasting formula for victory.
In his press conference Thursday, Pees illustrated precisely where the Falcons need to improve and his squad’s specific goals ahead of the start of the 2022 season.
“What we’ve really just developed in the offseason and heading into next year is the ability to rush the passer, and not always have to push to do it. And number two is being able to better. playing the men’s cover on the backend. And that’s kind of a two-fold thing. If you don’t reach the quarterback, that means the secondary is suspended forever, and that’s no good. On the other hand, if you can’t play the men’s cover at some point in this league, I mean you’re going to have to, so those are the two things for me that we really need to develop ahead of the year. next.
The Falcons’ pass rush is by far the worst unit in the league. As Pees points out, good defenses can attack the quarterback without exerting pressure. And in order to do that, you need to be able to lock it on the backend. It’s the ultimate team game, and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is a yin and yang dynamic with the secondary and forward.
In a follow-up question, a member of the Falcons media asked Pees how to develop these things – with experience or staff? He replied with a word.
Pees then gave an example of Terrell Suggs, who is one of the best assisters in the league, and how he could do things coaches can’t teach. Some players are just that good. With a year in the system under their belt, the Falcons defenders who are under contract in 2022 will surely take another step forward. But they must also infuse new high-level talent. As he points out, the Falcons will need to strengthen the cornerback and edge rooms, but they will need the current players to grow and step up.
Below is the full interview, which includes some incredibly insightful career advice for all fields.