The solution to the Falcons defense lies up front
The Atlanta Falcons defense is on life support. How can Atlanta turn this season around?
The story of the 2018 Falcons defense has been injuries, poor tackling, busted coverages, and of course penalties. While everyone is quick to demand a trade for a guy like Earl Thomas, the real issue is the lack of depth on the defensive line. Let’s take a look at the defensive line for a second:
DE – Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley (injured), Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby (injured), Steve Means (2 sacks in 7 seasons)
DT – Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat (rookie), Terrell McClain (run stuffer), Jack Crawford (career DE playing nickel DT), Justin Zimmer (UDFA)
Wow, this list of guys is a mess right here! You got 2 of your now 5 DE’s injured, both with groin injures, so that leave that leaves Beasley who is more suited for passing downs, Reed who is a solid back up at this point in his career and a guy who just signed to the roster a few weeks ago and has only two sacks in seven seasons. At defensive tackle, you got a star in Jarrett, a one-dimensional run stopper in McClain, a rookie who still hasn’t put it together as a pass rusher, an undersized nickel DT and an undrafted free agent. Oh, and this group had to play 77 plays (not including ST snaps) against the Saints. This is legit a problem. One can talk about them not effecting the game early on, but as time goes by this group had to be gassed and hurting. The Falcons never replaced Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn and right now we are seeing the effects of it.
Trade a 2019 6th round pick to New England for DE Trey Flowers (6’2, 265 lbs). Why Flowers? Flowers has not been extended by New England and it’s doubtful they will at this point. His contract is also very friendly as he is barely making over $2 million meaning he wouldn’t kill the team’s cap. Adding Flowers also makes things easier next year in terms of whether to extend Beasley or not. Beasley’s 5th-year option has been exercised for 2019 at $12 million. If he balls out, he can play on his extension until a long-term deal can be worked out, if he doesn’t the Falcons can rescind it and use the nearly $12 million in cap savings to sign other players like Jarrett and Flowers. What Flowers does is add a guy who can start opposite McKinley in the base and anchor against the run but he offers enough pass rush to compliment McKinley. He would slide Beasley to a better role as a nickel edge rusher and allow Reed to be the 4th man. Now with McKinley, Flowers, Beasley, and Reed at DE, Shelby can play more nickel DT which boost depth there and gives the Falcons another capable pass rushing option there.
No matter who is brought in to potentially replace Allen, there will be a learning curve and growing pains, but none of that matters if the D-line can’t pressure the QB. Fixing the D-line is the only viable way to salvage this defense and season. A decent pass rush will at least allow the defense to make enough stops to give a suddenly explosive offense more chances to win games. Playing wait and see is delaying the inevitable. If I’m Quinn and TD, I make this move Monday morning.