The Atlanta Falcons have much lower expectations in 2021 than in previous years given all the changes in the front office, coaching staff, and personnel. However, not all Falcons are off the hook in 2021.
Pass rush and dominant defensive line play has been an issue for the Atlanta Falcons for most of the last two decades. With very few exceptions, Grady Jarrett being one of them, the personnel on the defensive line has been terrible from year to year.
Dan Quinn was brought in back in 2015 with the expectations that he would be able to address and fix the defensive line woes. With the exception of Vic Beasley’s 2016 season and the emergence of Jarrett in that same time frame, the Falcons defensive line got worse under his guidance.
2021 will bring a lot of pressure to certain guys on the roster, but none more than Dante Fowler Jr.
Atlanta Falcons need Fowler to play like a first-round pick in 2021
There were a lot of expectations of Dante Fowler coming out of Florida in 2015, though he seems to be the leader when it comes to failed pass rushers from the 2015 draft class, which included, Vic Beasley, Leonard Williams, Arik Armstead, and Shane Ray in the first round.
Fowler had a breakout year in 2019 after being traded to the Rams halfway through the 2018 NFL season. He recorded 11.5 sacks for the Rams and the Atlanta Falcons jumped at the chance to bring him aboard in 2020.
As we all know, he had his worst year as a pro in 2020 recording just three sacks and four tackles for loss in Atlanta. Former general manager Thomas Dimitroff signing Fowler to a three-year $45 million deal looks to be one of the worst moves made in franchise history.
The Falcons have an out after this year, so if Fowler has any hope of staying with the Atlanta Falcons past 2021, he has to show out for new defensive coordinator Dean Pees this season.
Unlike Dan Quinn, Pees will put Fowler in a position to be effective and get after opposing quarterbacks in 2021. Fowler will have to take advantage of the change coming his way if he hopes to be more than a one-hit-wonder in his NFL career.
Atlanta Falcons fans should be rooting for this to happen.
If Fowler can replicate his 2019 season in 2021, the Atlanta Falcons defense will take a major step forward and that is something that we all desperately want to see.