Atlanta Falcons need their pass rush to show up early


The Atlanta Falcons pass rush will be the reason for early season success. It could also be the reason they dig themselves in too deep of a hole to overcome early on.

The Atlanta Falcons open up the season against the Vikings, Eagles, Colts, Titans, Texans, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks before their bye week: all playoff contenders.

And what do these quarterbacks have in common? All mobile. Some among the most mobile in the league. Look at Russell Wilson and Marcus Mariota. The two quarterbacks give defenses fits when they get outside the pocket and each has breakaway speed.

The Falcons edge rushers have to get pressure and contain. The emphasis on rushing in sync will be on full display to start the season. In their preseason game against Miami, there were times when pressure was applied but edge rushers got too wide, and the tackles didn’t do enough to collapse the pocket.

That means easy running lanes for quarterbacks who won’t hesitate to take off.  Wilson has rushed for more than 3,500 yards in his career and Mariota has surpassed the 1,250 yard mark.

Responsibility will fall heavily on Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley to set the edges and then use their speed to affect quarterbacks once they escape the pocket. In week one, the Falcons face a guy in Kirk Cousins who has 14 rushing touchdowns in his career. So don’t sleep on his wheels.

Other guys like Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff  are bigger bodied quarterbacks which present their own type of struggle. But the Falcons have prioritized speed and tackling. Deion Jones can catch up to players in the open field while securing the tackle as can Keanu Neal, who likes to play close to the line of scrimmage.

And don’t forget Deshaun Watson and the rookie Kyler Murray. Watson has changed games with his legs and while unproven, Murray is a dual threat that could be a problem.

There is also some unproven talent in the Falcons’ secondary but a consistent pass rush can negate the inexperience.

Next. Winners & losers so far this preseason for Atlanta Falcons. dark

The Falcons had 37 sacks last year, up from 19 in the 2015 season. And between Grady Jarrett, Beasley, McKinley and the new signees along the line, the tone for the season will be set with how well they get to the quarterback.