If the Atlanta Falcons are going to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, it will happen on the defensive side of the ball.
Reflecting back over the last three coaches to have stayed a full season, Dan Quinn, Mike Smith, and Jim Mora Jr, the Atlanta Falcons defense has been atrocious under the three of them. What makes this confounding is that all three of them are defensive coaches.
When you take out the 2007 season under Bobby Petrino and look at the other 15 NFL season under those three coaches, you have to shake your head and wonder how the Falcons defense has been as bad as it has.
People love to talk about total defense as a way to measure success but in reality, you should always look at scoring defense. How many points is your defense actually giving up is a much more important stat given teams cant beat you with 400 yards and zero points on the board.
Since 2004, the Atlanta Falcons have ranked 17th overall in scoring defense. Only three teams in that period have they finished in the Top 10 – 2010, 2012, and 2016. Falcons fans will recall that the team had highly successful regular seasons during those years and had big leads in the playoffs in the latter two.
Atlanta Falcons new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has made a lot of hires during his time with the Atlanta Falcons. Initially hiring Morris to be the passing game coordinator in 2019 was head-scratching to say the least but it will turn out to have been a blessing in disguise.
Morris has been able to take a very strategic look at this defense and will run a defense that best suits what the personnel does best. When he took over after the bye-week in 2019, he simplified things and ran a defense that exploited what his team strengths were and eliminated aspects that exposed the Atlanta Falcons defensive personnel.
We will see more of that from the Morris run defense in 2020.
The Atlanta Falcons are picked to finish third in the NFC South and have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, especially post bye-week when they have to face Drew Brees and Tom Brady twice as well as the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.
The offense is going to score a lot of points in 2020, but the success of this team is going to live and die on the defense’s ability to sack the quarterback, get stops, and manufacture turnovers. While it is just a hunch, the Atlanta Falcons will be much better in all three areas under Raheem Morris than they have been over the two decades.