In the 2011 season the Falcons’ defense struggled to prevent their opponents from converting first downs. The Falcons ranked fourth to last in the league allowing a third-down conversion rate of 44.1% on the season. The Miami Dolphins under Mike Nolan were ranked seventh in the league with an opponent’s third-down conversion rate of 33.8%. This season Nolan hopes to bring the success he found in Miami to Atlanta. One of the methods that Nolan’s defenses have used was to bring pressure on third down. For instance, the Dolphins had 21 sacks on third down last season, as opposed to the 10 that the Falcons were able to muster.
Personally I’m looking forward to a more aggressive defense. If we can generate some sort of a pass rush our entire defense will benefit and hopefully we can force the opponent’s offense off of the field. Mike Nolan was able to take the talent on Miami’s roster and generate a pass rush last season. What can he accomplish with the arguably better athletes that are on the Falcons’ squad?
Nolan has also indicated that he looks for the Falcons defense to play more physically than they have in the past. Throughout training camp so far he has pushed his players to challenge the receivers as they run their routes. This has largely meant playing press coverage in situations where the Falcons would typically have played off of the receivers. Nolan hopes that this will show him which players are able to play press coverage effectively. This way he can know which player to bring in during certain situations. Nolan also hopes that this physicality will allow the secondary to join in when the defense brings pressure on the opposing quarterback. Nolan intends to bring pressure from every position on the Falcons’ defensive squad, possibly leading to the defensive backs picking up a sack or two as the season progresses.
Source: The Associated Press