Breaking down the 2023 Atlanta Falcons training camp roster: Edge Defenders

The Falcons are hoping for a breakout star from this group.

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Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of potential in their group of edge defenders, but they are hoping one or two of these guys breaks out to be a key cog of a pass rush that needs a premier pass rusher. The Falcons added Bud Dupree to a unit that already had Lorenzo Carter and 2022 second-day draft picks Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. The hope is that one of those second-year guys really takes off in 2023 and turns into that 10-plus sack, high-pressure rate premiere pass rusher that the Falcons haven't had since John Abraham.

Arnold Ebiketie

Career Stats: 30 Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 11 QB Hits, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections

Arnold Ebiketie has the highest potential of any of the Falcons' pass rushers for the 2023 season. As a rookie, he had a lot of quality pass rushes that just didn't close with sacks because he was a half-step too late. As he continues to develop his repertoire of pass-rush moves and builds off of his rookie-year success, the Falcons are expecting him to take that next jump and be the primary pass-rushing threat off the edge of the defense. Atlanta will likely have him start as the weakside edge defender.

With Ebiketie likely in line for 60 percent of the snaps, he will have to really improve his run defense so that teams don't come right to him on run plays. Ebiketie has all the skills to be great as a pass rusher, but his run fits need a ton of improvement. Atlanta will work with him to get better there as he has the athleticism, long arms, and football intelligence that should help him take a leap. New coordinator Ryan Nielsen will likely have him with his hand in the dirt a bit more in 2023.

Role with the Falcons in 2023: Starting weakside edge defender

Lorenzo Carter

Career Stats: 211 Tackles, 27 Tackles for Loss, 18.5 Sacks, 47 QB Hits, 2 Interceptions, 3 Fumbles Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered, 17 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown

The Falcons are hoping for someone to break out so that they don't have to use either Lorenzo Carter or Bud Dupree as starting edge defenders. While Arnold Ebiketie looks to be the starter on the weak side, unless DeAngelo Malone takes the job from Carter, it looks like Carter will be the starting strong-side edge defender. Carter played the same role in 2022 under Dean Pees, but he will have some slightly different duties in 2023 with the change of defense.

Carter is from Georgia and has shown a ton of promise both athletically and on the field, but his best plays in 2022 were either special teams' plays or freak interceptions. The Falcons will likely have him be an edge-setting run defender in base sets to try and get some pass rush out of the base sets, but long-term his best role will be rotating in with someone who is better than him. Ideally, this season, he ends up being the rotational strong-side defender getting 40 percent of the snaps.

Role with the Falcons in 2023: Competing to be the starting strong-side edge defender

Bud Dupree

Career Stats: 266 Tackles, 62 Tackles for Loss, 46.5 Sacks, 82 QB Hits, 1 Interception, 10 Fumbles Forced, 4 Fumbles Recovered, 12 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown

The Atlanta Falcons brought in Bud Dupree to help raise the floor of their pass rush—especially in the rotational group. Dupree isn't looking like the guy who will be a starter, but as a veteran who can rotate in and give guidance to Arnold Ebiketie, the Falcons might have gotten a steal. The contract Dupree signed may only be for one year and around $4 million max, but he should provide a ton more value than that both on and off the field for Atlanta.

Dupree had 29 combined pressures—4 sacks, 4 hits, and 21 hurries—during his 453 snaps over 11 games in 2022. That kind of productivity was comparable to what Lorenzo Carter had but with half the snaps in games. The Falcons really need that kind of productivity to continue for 2023 so that they have a quality rotational edge rusher. The expectation here is that Dupree may only see 40 percent of the snaps—or the roughly 400-450 snaps he saw in 2022—but should provide a baseline pass rush that the Falcons can rely on.

Role with the Falcons in 2023: Rotational weak-side edge defender

DeAngelo Malone

Career Stats: 29 Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack, 2 QB Hits

When it comes to a potential breakout player for the Falcons' defense, DeAngelo Malone is a prime candidate for the pass rush. He was extremely productive in college, and even as a rookie made an impact even in his limited snaps on the field. Even though he only played 96 snaps rushing the passer, he had seven combined pressures. For a rookie, that was something he could build off of. The Falcons saw a ton of potential in him as a long-term strong-side edge option due to his athleticism.

Combining his athleticism with a full year in a professional strength and conditioning program after coming from Western Kentucky should help his progression as a pro. The Falcons will likely be using him as a strong-side edge defender and likely a stand-up linebacker in base defenses if he wins the job from Lorenzo Carter. In that situation, he'd likely also sub-in at strong-side defensive end in the four-man fronts that the Falcons run during their nickel sets. Ideally, he wins the job and lets Carter play more of a rotational role.

Role with the Falcons in 2023: Competing to be the starting strongside edge defender

Adetokunbo Ogundeji

Career Stats: 75 Tackles, 8 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 3 QB Hits, 1 Fumble Recovered, 1 Pass Deflection

Adetokunbo Ogundeji is fighting for a roster spot in just his third year in the NFL. The Falcons haven't really invested that much into the edge defender role to make his likely transition to a practice squad player so obvious. However, Ogundeji was just one of the worst edge defenders in the NFL during the 2022 season and doesn't really fit what the new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is trying to do with his edge defenders. Ogundeji doesn't have any real pass-rushing skills and is mediocre at run defense. The Falcons might keep him on the practice squad, though.

Role with the Falcons in 2023: Competing for a roster spot, potentially practice squad

Ikenna Enechukwu

Rookie Year

When it comes to long shots for the Falcons roster, Ikenna Enechukwu is the epitome of a long shot. He has some solid athleticism, but the Falcons need someone who has better pass rush ability from this group. While Enechukwu was solid with 10 sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 52 hurries during his college career, that was over three years starting and the pressure rate isn't enough to believe he'll be the next big pass rusher in Atlanta. Enechukwu's best shot to make the roster is for injury or someone like Ogundeji to just beef it in camp. Otherwise, he might be on the practice squad.

Role with the Falcons in 2023: Competing for a roster spot, potentially practice squad

All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.