With Super Bowl XLIX in the books, the focus now shifts to next season. Every team in the NFL has something it can improve upon – some more so than others.
Case in point: the Atlanta Falcons.
Their problem? Defense.
Last season, the Falcons finished dead last in the league in pass defense, dead last in the league in total yards, 27th in points allowed and 21st in rush defense. They were, in a word, awful.
How will Dan Quinn, who spent the last two seasons as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, get the Falcons’ defense to catch up to their offense, which finished fifth in passing in 2014?
“You have to assume he’s going to try to do something similar to what Gus Bradley did in Jacksonville when he left Seattle, which is try to recreate the Seahawks’ defense,” CBS Sports NFL writer Will Brinson said on Tiki and Tierney. “Now, recreating the Seahawks’ defense is a) impossible, and b) just a pipe dream, but you can make something similar.”
It all starts with Desmond Trufant, who finished with 61 tackles, 16 passes defended, three interceptions and a fumble recovery last season. He’s also just 24.
“I think with Desmond Trufant, they certainly have a good starting block at cornerback,” Brinson said. “That’s one of the reasons why when you start looking at these open jobs, you wanted to make sure there was availability of good defensive players. Trufant is a really nice piece.”
But he’s just one piece. The fact that Atlanta finished last in the league in pass defense with Trufant is mind-boggling. Then again, the Falcons mustered just 22 sacks last season – tied with Oakland for 30th in the league.
“Pass rush-wise, they’re really hurting,” Brinson said. “Last year, clearly they needed a young guy like Jake Matthews they could plug in on the offensive line, but they really need some pass-rush help, too. So I think that’s what you’ve got to do. If you’re Dan Quinn, you’ve got to work with (general manager) Thomas Dimitroff and figure out a way to acquire some guys who can rush the passer, either cheaply or through free agency or at the top of the draft. I think that’s got to be your No. 1 priority. You could have the best secondary in the entire world. If you can’t put pressure on a quarterback – either by blitzing or by having a good group of guys upfront – then you’re not going to be a good defense. That’s just the reality.”
Not that the Falcons are unique in that capacity.
“We see it all the time,” Brinson said. “The Carolina Panthers have a no-name secondary that’s looked pretty good two years in a row, but it’s not because they’re great players. It’s because they have a front four that gets after the quarterback. It’s a trickle-down effect. So I think if you’re Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, you need to start getting guys that can get after the passer ASAP.”