By: John Wickham
Stop if you have heard this before: The Falcons will not be running a 3-4 this year. Guess what? They won’t be running a 4-3 either, at least not exclusively. The Falcons will be running a multiple look defense that can and should be able to change at will. They have the pieces to run a 3-4; they also have the pieces to run a 4-3. Don’t be surprised to see them in a 5-2 or a 3-3 look. They have the pieces to run a traditional Nickel scheme with 2 safeties and 3 CBs. They also have the ability to run a Big Nickel scheme with 3 safeties and 2 CBs. The Falcons defense this year will be predicated on confusing the other team.
Adding Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, Ra’Shede Hageman, and resigning all their DTs should help control the line of scrimmage to stop the run and collapse the pocket against the pass. It also creates depth when most, if not all, of last season’s starters are now backing up the talent that was brought in.
At pass rusher they did not bring any big stars in but the Falcons believe getting Kroy Biermann back, Jonathan Massaqoui improving and adding DL coach Brian Cox and OLB coach Mark Collins will be enough to impact QBs. Osi Umenyiora is the veteran of the group and led all Falcons last year with 7.5 sacks. The Falcons added some pieces in the draft in Prince Shembo and Tyler Starr, both are OLBs that can occasionally play with their hand in the dirt.
Sean Weatherspoon is the leader of the LBs. Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu are back and hopefully hungry to prove last season was no fluke. The Falcons addressed LB late in the draft with the selections of Shembo, Starr and also Yawin Smallwood and Marquis Spruill.
Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are the presumed starters at corner. And then behind them is a lot of competition. Last year’s NB Robert McClain and then free agent additions Javier Arenas and Josh Wilson and draft pick Ricardo Allen.
At safety William Moore will return as a starter but Dwight Lowery, Dezmen Southward, Kemal Ishmael, and Zeke Motta will be fighting for the other open spot.
The Falcons should be able to adapt their game plan for the opponent. Being scheme diverse will allow the Falcons to matchup to the other team’s strengths while masking their own weaknesses. I don’t expect a miracle from the defense. I am not expecting them to jump all the way up from near the bottom to a Top 10 defense but if they can be a Top 15 or Top 20 defense that will go a long way in securing a playoff berth.