Will the Atlanta Falcons defense build off their success endured towards the end of the 2019 campaign?
The biggest talking point surrounding the Atlanta Falcons, for better or for worse, has been about the defense. For what seems like the entirety of Dan Quinn’s time in Atlanta, we always enter the season questioning whether this defense is up to the challenge and can show signs of improvement rather than regression.
2019 showed both sides of defensive production as the defensive production pre-bye was drastically worse than the improbable turnaround that occurred after the bye week. This turnaround started with an upset in New Orleans backed by great defensive play that held Drew Brees scoreless and only allowed nine total points.
So what started off as one of the league’s worst defensive units, had a late-season run as one of the league’s top 10 units.
However, this has no indication as to how the defense will fare in 2020. Atlanta Falcons fans, myself included, like to believe that the defense will build off 2019 and start the season hot, but there is absolutely no correlation between how a team ends a season and how they start off the following season.
Just as easy as it is to keep the defense rolling, the defense can just as easily regress back to the days of frustration and agony.
On a positive note, the defense has been the largely impressive unit in both team scrimmages thus far. Rookies like AJ Terrell and Mykal Walker, have been greatly impressed and both have been receiving first-team reps at their respective positions.
Both newcomers and veterans alike have also seemingly stepped up and shown they have the potential to be an above-average unit in 2020.
This is in large part to having an offense like the Atlanta Falcons have that doesn’t call for the defense to necessarily be one of the league’s best; due to their ability to take the top off of almost any defense. However, there is a threshold on how poor they can perform before the Falcons start getting diminishing returns as the offense will be tasked with needing to outperform their own capabilities.
First, let’s face the reality that there are no preseason games; which, for a team like the Atlanta Falcons, is of much importance. With many questions on defense, you only get half an answer via in-camp scrimmages.
There is no proven commodity at the cornerback position, Keanu Neal returns after two major injuries, question marks as to who steps up to play alongside Deion Jones, Takk needing a breakout season, and more.
Without any games, you can’t fully assess players because how they perform in practice doesn’t mean they have the same productivity once the actual game starts. It’s impossible to replicate game action via scrimmages.
Secondly, calling the start of the 2020 season “hard” for the Atlanta Falcons is an understatement. The Atlanta Falcons will face some of the league’s best teams such as Seattle, Dallas, and Green Bay all in the first four weeks.
The Falcons started 2018 (1-4) and 2019 (1-7), so kicking off the season .500 or better is key and the defense has to be the focal point that gives the Atlanta Falcons the 2020 start they desperately need. By having a poor start for the third year in a row, I can’t imagine that Dan Quinn lives to see the bye week once again.