The Atlanta Falcons are in a bad situation at edge rusher

Sep 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws on the run against Atlanta Falcons linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. (56) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws on the run against Atlanta Falcons linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. (56) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The current situation at edge rusher for the Atlanta Falcons is dire.

The Atlanta Falcons are in a bad spot when it comes to edge rushers. Currently, they have Dante Fowler, Brandon Copeland, and Barkevious Mingo penciled in as true edge rushers. Those three players combined for five and a half sacks in 2020.

However, there are still players like Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, John Cominsky, and possibly Marlon Davidson who potentially could line up as outside rushers in a 3-4 defense, but they primarily should be lining up with their hand in the dirt.

Foyesade Oluokun will see an uptick in being an outside rusher, and he has shown an ability to get to the quarterback when Dan Quinn would line him up to do so. But I would rather him be covering and flying through gaps like he got used to doing during his stellar 2020 season.

Even if Dante Fowler, who right now has the most potential among any of the current edge rushers, produces like he should, it will not even be close to enough.

Brandon Copeland and Barkevious Mingo are rotational players who you do not want starting for the Falcons on Sundays. They can be productive players when they come in as rotational players. I am sure that the coaching staff knows this, but the front office must get enough players around them to not count on them starting.

Pees will hopefully be able to get the most out of the current players on the roster, but even if he does that will not be close to enough production for the defense. Pass rush is considered by many, as the most important facet of defense.

It is imperative for the Falcons to find who they can, and get the absolute most out of those players. The players currently on the roster will not be enough for the defense.

Hopefully, the Atlanta Falcons history at pass rusher will change

To say that the Atlanta Falcons history at pass rusher has been dismal, could be an understatement. The one stat that emphasizes that more than any, is Vic Beasley currently being Top 5 in sacks in Falcons history.

Few teams have had as many problems finding an edge rusher as the Atlanta Falcons. The team hasn’t had a consistent 10+ sack guy since John Abraham, which was nearly a decade ago.

Vic Beasley had a 15.5 sack season, however, that quickly proved to be a fluke. Next to that Adrian Clayborn had a nine and a half-sack season in 2017, but six of those sacks came in one game. That doesn’t show the consistency needed.

This past offseason, then general manager, Thomas Dimitroff made a splash by signing Dante Fowler Jr. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems like that was a terrible idea.

He produced a whopping three sacks, hopefully, he can improve on that in what seems to be his last season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Do not count on the Atlanta Falcons finding a long term solution in free agency

Most fans were hoping that Terry Fontenot would be willing to make the cap room, to make a splash in free agency. Most were hoping for guys like Carl Lawson, or Trey Hendrickson but that did not happen. Those guys have already signed, which means we have to look at the alternatives.

The Falcons could take a chance on older, more proven guys that are still left on the market. Players like Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, Everson Griffin, or Melvin Ingram are still currently unsigned.

Don’t put money on the Atlanta Falcons signing Everson Griffin, however.

He has spent his whole career playing in a 4-3 defense, which fits him the best. Dean Pees is more of a 3-4 defense, and while Pees could make Griffin work, he more than likely is not the best option.

That brings us to the other three players, Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, and Melvin Ingram.

Most Falcons fans would welcome any one of these guys. They are all proven players, who may be older but they can still produce.

The other category of pass rushers that Terry Fontenot can take a flier on, are guys like Ziggy Ansah, Jadeveon Clowney, or dare I say, Vic Beasley.

Ziggy Ansah is an interesting one.

He was a highly sought-after player coming out of BYU, and he has proven that he can produce, however, he has had one issue, injuries.

He has only managed to play two full seasons in his eight-year NFL career, the most recent one coming in 2015. When he was with Detroit he put up a 14.5 sack, and 12 sack season. It is not likely that he will be able to play a 17 game season, but he has proven he can produce.

Out of all of these free agents, Jadeveon Clowney is the one to keep an eye out for.

New Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith knows him well from this previous season with the Tennessee Titans. Clowney was thought to be a generational talent coming out of South Carolina. While he has been a force in the run game, he has never been that great of a pass rusher, in fact, he has had some pretty bad seasons as a pass rusher.

He has the potential, but at this point in his career, don’t count on it.

Ok, now the elephant in the room, Vic Beasley.

Don’t count out the possibility of a reunion with the Atlanta Falcons and Vic Beasley, and to be fair it might be a good idea. While his 15.5 sack season in 2016 has proven to be a fluke, he could still provide a bit of a spark.

Dean Pees would put Beasley in a better position than Dan Quinn did, and frankly, he might provide some production with Pees. At best, Beasley is a passing-down player, but he might be able to provide much-needed sacks for the defense.

The draft is the best option for the Atlanta Falcons, but it is far from a slam dunk

This year’s draft is not the ideal one to be looking for generational pass rushers.

There simply is not a Bosa brother, or a Chase Young available in this year’s draft for the Falcons. With opt-outs and/or low production, no pass rusher really sticks out like a Chase Young. There are a lot of guys with huge potential, players like Gregory Rousseau, Kwity Paye, and recently popular Jayson Oweh.

Gregory Rousseau is a mountain of a man.

He is 6’7″ and 260 lbs, he also is freakishly quick and fast. He could wind up being the best rusher out of this class. He simply dominated his competition and has tremendous upside. Possibly watch for the Atlanta Falcons to trade back from the fourth pick, and try to score Rousseau.

It is hard to predict whether Rousseau or Paye will go first, but Paye is also a high upside option. He is 6’4″ and 270 lbs, but he does struggle a little bit with consistency and the run game. He has a high upside with generating sack numbers and could be a trade down target for the Falcons.

Then there is Jayson Oweh out of Penn State. He lit social media on fire the other day. The freakishly athletic man stands at 6’5″ and 260 lbs. He had a vertical of 39.5″, a broad jump of 134″, and a 40 yard dash time of 4.36 seconds.

It is simply mind-boggling that a player of his size can run that fast.

If you were unfamiliar with Oweh and you read those numbers, you may be thinking why isn’t he a lock to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft? When you look at his statistics, it becomes apparent, he put up an abysmal zero sacks this past season.

He had seven sacks in his three-year career at Penn State. He wasn’t as horrible rushing the passer as those stats might say, but it is alarming, to say the least.

There was a player you may have heard of, and many are hoping the Atlanta Falcons will trade for, in Danielle Hunter who is an eerily similar narrative to that of Jayson Oweh. Hunter put up four and a half sacks in his three-year career at LSU, three of which came in his second year with the program.

Hopefully, if the Falcons end up with Oweh, they can turn him into the player Danielle Hunter has been with the Vikings.

The long term solution at edge rusher probably will not come this year

There is a little bit of early confidence that Terry Fontenot will be able to have more success finding a consistent pass rusher down in Atlanta, though it may not happen this year. The Atlanta Falcons seem to be in a tough situation at the position going into this upcoming season.

The Atlanta Falcons will no doubt add more rushers to the roster from now until the season starts, but do not count on the Falcons having a Top 16 defense when it comes to rushing the passer.

If a year from now we are talking about them having a top pass rush, it will no doubt be attributed to Dean Pees as he has always been able to get the most out of his pass-rushing unit.

Hopefully, the Atlanta Falcons can score big in the draft, and find a star pass rusher for the next decade!

Next. Projecting the Atlanta Falcons pre-NFL Draft depth chart. dark