With the guidance of defensive mastermind Dan Quinn and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, the Atlanta Falcons’ youthful defense should legitimately prove themselves this year. Filled with young athletes discovered by Quinn and his staff in the draft, this team has become something worth taking note of. Middle line backer Deion “Debo” Jones and cornerback Desmond Trufant have developed into top tier defensive players in the entirety of the league. It is time to realize that.
Although Vic Beasley had a down year in 2017-2018 with only five sacks, you cannot forget that just a year before he lead the NFL in sacks with fifteen and half sacks. This season the Falcons are in the 4-3 with Beasley in his college niche at defensive end, also where he had his success in 2016. Additionally, with second year defensive end Takkarist “Tak” McKinley ready to create a spark this season, Beasley should have a lot of pressure taken off him. With two high speed and extremely athletic players rushing from the edge, the two players should realistically combine for fifteen sacks at least.
The two big guys getting the start in the trenches are Grady Jarrett and Terrell McClain. Grady Jarrett has been nothing but solid the past two seasons. If you do not remember he took down Brady three times in that Superbowl. Terrell McClain seems to be a short term plug in for Quinn, as third round draft pick defensive tackle out of South Florida, Deadrin Senat develops. Look for Senat and McKinley to find their footing this season, as Jarrett continues solid play. This defensive line is young and talented and should have no trouble handling the rush, and should apply more than enough pressure to quarterbacks around the league.
Atlanta’s linebacker core is not the strongest unit of their defense, but is nothing short of strong. Lead by third year stud Deion Jones out LSU, this quick set of players will look to make the next step. Deion Jones has had a hundred tackles each of his two seasons in the league. With six interceptions in his career as well, it is clear Debo can both cover and make tackles anywhere on the field. Outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had an excellent season last year and will look to improve on it. Last season, he was eight tackles short of a hundred and was solid all year round. With all the talent around him, he gets overshadowed, but still deserves credit as a solid linebacker only in his third season.
Potentially the biggest question mark in the entire defensive unit is Duke Riley. Also coming out of LSU, he has had his fair share of troubles in the league, including a few notable miscues this preseason. Quinn still has faith and is hoping Riley can gain confidence and use his talents to complete this unit. In the case that Riley flops out, look for sixth round pick Foye Olukon to take some snaps and produce. The young athlete out of Yale played very well all throughout the preseason.
The Defensive backs on the Atlanta Falcons Roster are the strongest of this defensive unit. Lead by Desmond Trufant who has been a stud ever since he entered the league is just one reason why these backs will dominate. Robert Alford who stands on the other side of Trufant has had to take on a bigger role with Trufant handling some injuries recently. He has held his own taking on that role. Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are in control behind them at the Safety Positions. Keanu Neal is known for being able to lay the hit stick, achieving a hundred tackles in each of his past seasons. Ricardo Allen just inked a hefty, but deserving contract for his solid leadership and play the past few seasons.
This secondary gets even deeper with nickel cornerback Brian Poole, who has played consistently well having to step up during Trufant’s injuries. However this year, there is plenty of competition for that nickel spot with Rookie Isaiah Oliver out of Colorado, and preseason standout Damontae Kazee. Both have extreme athleticism and dominated in their college days and seem ready to make an impact sooner than later. Overall, the depth behind this unit makes it elite, and should prove to be so this season.
Bringing It Together
Dan Quinn has rebuilt a mock Legion of Boom here in Atlanta, only younger, faster, and deeper. Look for this defensive unit to dominate offenses of all styles this coming season. Although, almost every player starting on this defense is under the age of 27, besides McClain and Alford, this young core is ready to assert their dominance. Last year, the Falcons only allowed 19.7 points per game and was the eight ranked defense according to ESPN. Look for this youthful squad to creep into the top five and dominate across the board.