Atlanta Falcons defense has concerns that still remain
The Atlanta Falcons defense took a step in the right direction towards improvement on the first day of free agency with the signing outside linebacker/defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr.
Even with the big-name signing of Dante Fowler, Jr., the Atlanta Falcons defense has many remaining concerns and holes that must be addressed. Whether this will be by signing any remaining free agents or through the draft, remains to be seen.
While there is no doubt that Fowler, Jr. will drastically improve the pass rush (hopefully), other questions remain. The defensive line (front) seems to be set with ends Takk McKinley and Fowler, Jr., tackles Grady Jarrett, Allen Bailey (if he’s not cut) and Tyler Davison, who was just recently re-signed to a three-year contract.
Aside from Jarrett, Fowler, Jr. and the potential of McKinley, this is not exactly a defensive front that instills fear in opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. Is Davison the primary nickel lineman next to Jarrett, or do the Falcons sign another free agent lineman to beef up the defensive line?
Will Allen Baily be cut, and if no, will he be able to stop the run and generate pressure on the quarterback? Bailey was solid against the run in 2019 but only registered 1 sack. The Falcons might use their first-round 2020 draft pick on South Carolina Gamecocks beast defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw if he’s still available.
This will no doubt shore up and improve the defensive line, especially with Kinlaw starting next to Jarrett. Which other linebackers will be playing next to Deion Jones? If De’Vondre Campbell is back, it will most likely be him, as he improved exponentially in the second half of 2019, specifically in pass coverage.
If Campbell signs elsewhere, will it be Foye Oluokun? Oluokun is an undersized weakside linebacker with excellent athleticism. Is he big, strong and fast enough to take over the position full time should Campbell leave?
Perhaps the Atlanta Falcons draft Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Kenneth Murray as the heir apparent and starter for many years to come. If versatile Keanu Neal returns to full health and his fifth-year option is picked up, perhaps he might be moved to linebacker, where he played some snaps his rookie year.
It is looking more and more like the Atlanta Falcons will draft either a linebacker, defensive lineman or cornerback with their 2020 first-round pick. Either way, the Falcons must address the defensive line, linebacker position and/or secondary in the upcoming draft.
They now have one less pick in the second round with the Hayden Hurst trade. The tight end position had to be addressed with the loss of Austin Hooper.
Let’s hope that one less pick in the second round does not prevent the Falcons from improving their glaring holes and remaining needs on defense.