The Atlanta Falcons have finally found their franchise pass rusher
The Atlanta Falcons have been in purgatory when it comes to a strong pass rush for over a decade now. Their last true franchise pass rusher was John Abraham who they let walk out the door not knowing it would be another decade-plus before they found another.
But, we have good news, the Falcons have found their new franchise pass rusher in a certain player who absolutely dominated the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive line this past week.
He is an emerging superstar that is just scratching the surface in his first year in the NFL at the age of 23.
Arnold Ebiketie is the pass rusher the Atlanta Falcons have searched everywhere for
Arnold Ebiketie went from being born in Cameroon, Africa, to attending high school in Rockville Maryland, before transferring to a high school in Kensington Maryland, to playing at Temple before transferring to Penn State where he ended up proving himself worthy of the Atlanta Falcons trading up to draft him in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. That is a long journey and a journey that is only getting started.
On Sunday, Ebiketie dominated the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive line. And before anyone says it, yes, the 49ers were playing with some backups, but they were still NFL players who were absolutely shredded by a pass rusher playing in his sixth career game.
Dean Pees lined the ‘pass rush doctor’ up on both sides of the defensive line and he feasted on either side. He played 17 snaps on the left side of the line and 31 snaps on the right side. In total Pro Football Focus claims he had three pressures and two quarterback hits, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had more than that on review, he constantly had his hands on Jimmy Garoppolo.
In fact, here are some impressive stats from Pro Football Focus’ Twitter:
As you can clearly see, Arnold Ebiketie was easily the best rookie pass rusher in week six, ahead of the top-two draft picks in the entire 2022 draft — Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson.
On the season, Aidan Hutchinson has the slight edge in total pressures, but Hutchinson has also had more opportunities with 27 more pass-rush snaps.
Here are the top three rookie pass rushers when it comes to pressuring the QB:
- George Karlaftis: 191 pass rush snaps, 13 hurries, 3 hits, 1 sack, 10.4 win%
- Aidan Hutchinson: 170 pass rush snaps, 9 hurries, 3 hits, 3 sacks, 8.9 win%
- Arnold Ebiketie: 143 pass rush snaps, 8 hurries, 5 hits, 1 sack, 11.7 win%
As you can see, Ebiketie has had significantly fewer opportunities to chase the quarterback but still has more hits and a better pass rush win rate than the other two top rookie performers. Take into account that Hutchinson was drafted 36 spots higher than Ebiketie and Karlaftis was drafted 8 spots higher, and it becomes clear that the Atlanta Falcons hit a grand slam with the selection of Arnold Ebiketie in the second round.
Obviously, it is still too early to fully declare that Ebiketie is better than his fellow draftees and that he will be a perennial double-digit sack artist with unwavering certainty, but I really do think that Terry Fontenot finally found the guy to fix the Falcons’ outside pass rush, and that is extremely exciting. It would help cure a ton of problems for the defense moving forward. You will be seeing a lot of #47 taking down opposing QBs in the years to come!
It is also worth shouting out DeAngelo Malone who has not been given too many opportunities on the year but on Sunday he absolutely torched one of the 49ers’ blockers right off the snap during one of his few chances — his potential is sky-high as well.