6 Atlanta Falcons Players Most Positively Affected By 2023 Free Agency Signings

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Arnold Ebiketie
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EDGEs Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone

Key Moves that help:

  • Bringing in Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator
  • Re-signing Lorenzo Carter
  • Signing Kaden Elliss, David Onyemata and Calais Campbell
  • Getting TaQuon Graham back Healthy
  • Eddie Goldman coming out of retirement and back to the Falcons

Sure, the Falcons could draft a top edge prospect in the 2023 NFL draft, but don't be surprised if Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone have exceptional second seasons in the NFL. The Falcons had one of the worst pass rushing units in 2022, but both Malone and Ebiketie showed potential as pass rushers despite limited snaps. As rookies, they accounted for 35 of the Falcons 195 total pressures despite playing just a rotational role where Ebiketie played 46 percent of the snaps and Malone just 19 percent of the snaps. They needed a good coach to help them develop their pass rush moves.

So the Falcons let former defensive coordinator Dean Pees ride off into the sunset and finish off his career. In his stead, they hired Ryan Nielsen from the Saints to be the defensive coordinator in part because of his history of taking defensive linemen and edge defenders and maximizing them in the pass rush. Over the last two seasons, the Saints have had 46 and 48 sacks while the Falcons haven't even combined for a total of 40 sacks when adding the last two seasons together.

The Falcons also wanted a new look at the pass rush by having Lanier Goethie and Mario Jeberaeel switch to defense. Goethie was an assistant linebackers coach, and Jeberaeel was an assistant offensive line coach. By having them come in and work with the defensive front, they'll be able to get a new perspective on how to attack offensive lines and create that pass rush. By re-signing Lorenzo Carter, the Falcons give some continuity to the mentorship for the younger pass rushers in the Falcons' defense. With new coaches, Malone and Ebiketie should see hopefully see more snaps too.

Re-signing Carter wasn't the only move that should help the Falcons young edge defenders, bringing in Kaden Elliss should also give the Falcons another good pass rusher while also giving a guide to the new scheme to Ebiketie and Malone. The biggest need for the Falcons' pass rush was more depth along the defensive line. Bringing in Calais Campbell and David Onyemata, getting back TaQuon Graham from injury, and bringing back Eddie Goldman from retirement should improve the depth and pass rush inside, but that will be covered more later.

By improving the interior pass rush, the Falcons should be able to improve the edge rush as well, though. Having the three new additions combine with the incumbents of Graham and Jarrett should give the Falcons a deep, strong rotation that will give Ebiketie, Malone, and any other Falcons edge defenders more one-on-one matchups to take advantage of. The kinds of matchups that should yield more results for the Atlanta Falcons pass rush in 2023, including those for Ebiketie and Malone to use to take that leap in year two.