The Atlanta Falcons are entering the 2022 offseason with a lot to be optimistic about, but plenty to work on. The team missed the playoffs in the first year of Arthur Smith, but still won an impressive seven games despite a roster that is far from compatible with the new regime. Tori McElhaney joined Chris and Harry to discuss where the team can stand to improve most with free agency and the draft looming large.
It's a story that Falcons fans are all too familiar with, but the Falcons are wildly inefficient in the trenches.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons were terrible at protecting quarterback Matt Ryan as he was sacked 40+ times for the fourth consecutive season. This unit features a potential a left guard that played more professional football games last year - 15 - than he did collegiate games - 12 - and a center starting his first full season.
Things somehow got worse for the defensive line, as they were outpaced as a unit by TJ Watt alone. Watt finished the season with four and a half more sacks than the 18 that the Falcons defense came up with. The nearest defense to their total was a Philadelphia Eagles defense that finished with 11 more sacks.
We asked Tori where the team stands to improve most and she was pretty emphatic about the defense needing to get some love in the upcoming cycle. McElhaney told the guys that "Even though Matt Ryan was hit the amount of times that he was hit, (she) just can't get over the fact that opposing QB could do what they wanted to do because they weren't under pressure at all."
With no one able to generate pressure, opposing quarterbacks were able to feast on the Falcons. They were consistently able to extend plays or simply drop back and go through their reads with ease. The opposition accounted for nearly 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns through the air.
So how can the Falcons fits this huge area of need?
"(The Falcons) need to bring in guys that can win those one-on-one matchups!" Tori said, "If you look at the interior, you have a guy like Grady Jarrett who's getting triple-teamed all the time."
As of right now, the Falcons really don't have anyone that can do that. Dante Fowler Jr. led the team in sacks with four and a half, but more importantly he led them in money owed. As a whole, the organization is looking at a whole lot of nothing. "I think you're looking at a complete rebuild of the pass rush that you're not looking at on the other side," she said. "There's really just nothing to build on right now."
The pass rush has been a dire need for the Falcons since losing a generational player in John Abraham a whopping *check watch* ten years ago. After letting Abraham walk after his 10 sack season in 2012, the team has enjoyed a double digit sack season from a player only once - and they went to the Super Bowl that year.
Look for the Falcons to be aggressive in solidifying this unit this offseason.