Atlanta Falcons offseason positional expectations: LB/DE
Dean Pees will overhaul the entire Atlanta Falcons defense.
It has been a breath of fresh air hearing new Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees discuss being varied on defense. A vastly different concept than Falcons fans became used to under Dan Quinn, whose scheme was straightforward and relied on top-notch talent and execution, two areas that have been lacking over the years.
Pees has said repeatedly that he plans to blitz from everywhere, always keeping opposing offenses on their toes. Confusing the opponent can be just as important as the talent on the field at times.
While he will not commit to running a 4-3 or 3-4 as a base defense, saying instead it will vary week to week, the expectation should be more of a 3-4 look.
The change in the scheme will move some players on the roster to different roles than we saw in 2021.
The Atlanta Falcons have a trio of young linebackers on the roster
Deion Jones has proven to be one of the top young linebackers in the NFL.
His ability to get sideline to sideline is excellent and he excels in coverage. He has also shown he can be effective rushing the passer, leading the team with four and a half sacks in 2020.
Foye Oluokon is proving to be a major draft steal as a fifth-round pick out of Yale. He has quickly worked his way into a starting role and looks to be a dynamic player at the position. If he continues his career arc, he should start gaining recognition as one of the best young linebackers in the NFL.
Not to mention he dominates onside kicks!
Jones and Oluokon will make a dynamic combination in the middle in Dean Pees’ 3-4 defense.
Having the mobility, size, and athleticism to drop in coverage as well as the ability to blitz will make them crucial pieces to this unit. They both also have a tendency to generate big plays. Jones is well known for crucial interceptions and Foye has a knack for knocking the ball out.
Mykal Walker showed flashes as a rookie in limited opportunities and if Pees likes what he sees Walker should see an expanded role and be an important piece in this linebacker room.
Dante Fowler aligned mostly as a defensive end in 2020 but should get more opportunities as an outside linebacker in this new-look defense.
While he underperformed last year, a scheme and position change may do a lot for his production. He was also battling an injury that surely limited him. While Fowler is a cut or restructures candidate this off-season due to cap restrictions it is not a sure thing. If he does end up sticking on this roster expect a better performance than 2020.
John Cominsky will join Grady Jarrett at the defensive end in the Falcons 3 man front.
Cominsky served as a defensive end in Dan Quinn’s 4-3 defense and unlike Fowler, he should continue to do so for Dean Pees. He has the size and athleticism to perfectly slide in at the end position in a three-man front.
With Grady Jarret working on the other end with a nose tackle clogging the middle. He showed promise last year and if we see the year three leap, he could be a breakout candidate this season.