Dean Pees made Atlanta Falcons’ headlines back in August when he discussed how this team would be different. Pees voiced how this team would be different and earn the respect that Atlanta Falcons defenses haven’t had in well over a decade. Atlanta has rarely been known for having an above-average defense and Pees was well aware of that fact.
Two years in and it is hard to say with any conviction that Atlanta should believe Pees is going to be the guy to change Atlanta’s defensive track record. Yes, there has been a marginal improvement in the pass rush and points per game compared to last season, however, this defense still cannot be relied on.
Atlanta has allowed 24 points per game this season compared to the 27 points they averaged giving up last year. This slight improvement is good enough to push Atlanta’s defense to the 24th-best scoring defense in the league.
While this is a very slight improvement it is worth noting that Pees helped accomplish this with a young secondary, no primary pass rusher, and very limited impactful additions. Young pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie has shown flashes of his potential and corner A.J. Terrell has continued to be a force in the secondary.
Pees has accomplished a slight improvement without the benefit of big signings or noteworthy draft picks with the offense getting the majority of the off-season attention. As shaky as Dean’s defense has been over the last two seasons it is hard to believe anyone could do much better with the roster Pees has been given.
The Falcons should give Pees one more season with the benefit of another draft class and full cap space to have a chance to build a competitive defense. It is nearly impossible in today’s league to find any level of success without a consistent pass rush and the Falcons continue to have one of the worst in the league.
Grady Jarrett is Atlanta’s sack leader despite playing on the inside speaking both to his elite ability and Atlanta’s need to find competent pass rushers. The focus of this off-season should be finding an elite pass rusher and giving Pees one more season to prove he is capable of the turnaround he spoke of during training camp.
This Atlanta defense resembles the units fans have grown used to watching over the past decade. Yes, they are younger and at times a bit more fun to watch, however, the usual mistakes and inability to get off the field are continued themes that resulted in the last coaching staff being fired.
Atlanta is a team in bad need of a defensive reset, one that Pees should be given one more season to give a team that is no doubt headed in the right direction but has a long way to go.