Bates III set to lead Falcons defense after Pro Bowl season

After having a career year with his new team, Jessie Bates III hopes to lead the Falcons defense once again, this time with hopes of making a postseason run.

Bates III looks forward to having another Pro Bowl season.
Bates III looks forward to having another Pro Bowl season. / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

If Jessie Bates III didn't convince enough people that he was one of the best safeties in the NFL last season, we shall see what he does for an encore as he is expected to capitalize off of his recent success.

When the Falcons signed him to a lucrative 4-year, $64 million dollar deal, many critics questioned the organization's decision to sign Bates III as they wondered could he solve the Falcons problems on the back end of the defense. The Falcons were given an impressive return on their investment so far as Bates III had a career year totaling 132 total tackles along with 6 interceptions. He also had 89 solo tackles which was good for 2nd in the NFL among players at his position and his 6 interceptions was good for 3rd best in the league.

A major advantage of having Bates III secure the backend of their defense is the fact that he excels at reading defenses. He should become a prized pupil for new defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake as he comes with an extensive background in developing defensive backs. Bates III should serve as an extension of Lake as a coach on the field. He is also one of the best defenders when it comes to baiting quarterbacks.

Having elite instincts and play recognition could work to his advantage even more now as the Falcons are expected to pursue multiple pass rushers during the 2024 NFL Draft. If general manager Terry Fontenot can find a few gems among the prospects and if he can secure a veteran pass rusher or two, Bates III and the entire defensive unit could find themselves amongst the best in the NFL.

In their Week 12 win against their divisional rival New Orleans Saints, Bates III showed exactly why he was heavily pursued by the Falcons during free agency. With 2 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter and with the Saints in the red zone threatening to score, Bates III baited Saints quarterback Derek Carr into thinking he had an open receiver on a slant route. Just as quickly as Carr released the pass Bates III made the read and broke on the route and made the interception which resulted in a pick-6 and gave the Falcons the momentum for the rest of the game.

This is what the Falcons expected out of Bates III. They knew he was capable of making game changing plays and they knew they were getting an elite safety to patrol the middle of the field. Bates III also had a forced fumble in that same game against the Saints and he is the perfect example of how one player can be a difference maker. Bates III totaled 6 interceptions on the season and the Falcons went 5-1 in the games he was able to get one.

Bates III was named to what should be the first of many Pro Bowl selections and he was named Second-Team All-Pro for the 2nd time in his career. After his stellar season the organization hopes that Bates III's leadership and work ethic rubs off on the younger players in the secondary.

Sometimes you have to pay for elite talent and that's exactly what the Falcons did with Bates III. He has definitely filled a need and has proved to be a vital factor on their defense. Many questioned the signing at first because the team needed help at other positions. I get the idea that Fontenot had his vision set on the future success of the team.

Bates III is only 27 years old and safeties usually begin to peak around ages 26 to 31. The Falcons will have him throughout his prime years and now that they have a potentially dangerous offense that should be capable of lighting up scoreboards, the Falcons defense won't have as much pressure on them to get stops in clutch situations if they can play with the lead and maintain it. Bates III is a cerebral, smart player with great ball-hawking skills who is also a very solid tackler. having a player who can shut down deep ball attempts in clutch situations is critical, especially in today's pass-happy NFL.