The Atlanta Falcons had the worst defense in football last season. The Falcons had the league’s worst passing defense giving up 4,478 yards. The Falcons running defense was somewhat better coming in at 21st in the league with 1894 yards. While the Falcons only gave up 240 more passing yards than the 31st ranked passing defense, they also gave up 123 more rushing yards than that team who finished with the 5th worst defense in the league. The Falcons gave up an average of 22.7 total yards, 15.5 passing yards and 7.7 rushing yards more than the Philadelphia Eagles. The good news for Falcons fans is, the Falcons have made a rather big splash in free agency on the defensive side of the ball. With that said there has also been a change at the top in Atlanta. Mike Smith and his staff are gone replaced by first time head coach ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. Quinn brings with him ex-Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, as well as former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Richard Smith. Smith has not held a coordinator position since the end of the 2008 season, and Keith Armstrong is the special teams coordinator.
The first signing is ex-Seahawks LB O’Brien Schofield. Schofield’s numbers as he enters his 6th season in the league say that he is a career backup, but his knowledge of Quinn’s system will be advantageous at least early on. The next big signing is ex-Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn entering his 5th season has 109 career tackles, 13 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 1 pass defensed.. There is a risk factor attached to Clayborn as he has only played 2 full seasons and has missed nearly two full season in his first four years. Clayborn is supposed to be an upgrade over Kroy Biermann. Biermann is entering his 8th season and has only missed 14 games in his career and that last season going down for the season after 2 games. Biermann for his career has averaged 39.8 tackles 3 sacks 0.28 forced fumbles, 0.28 fumbles recovered, 0.28 interceptions and 0.85 passes defensed a season. Comparatively Clayborn has averaged 27.25 sacks, 3.25 sacks 1.25 forced fumbles and 0.25 passes defensed a season. With that said I think the two numbers that catapult a healthy Clayborn over Biermann is the 3.25 sacks and the 1.25 forced fumbles as well as being younger than Biermann. I admit that its a weak case to start Clayborn over Biermann, but I think you have to go with the guy who has shown flashes of greatness who has the speed over the aging veteran stalwart. The next big signing is ex-Texans LB Brooks Reed. Reed has played in 60 of 64 possible games; and has amassed 169 tackles, 118 of the solo, 14.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 10 passes defensed and 13 stuffs. Reed’s work speaks for itself he is a good open field tackler, a good pass rusher as well as good against the run, and alongside newly signed Justin Durant the Falcons will have a strong starting linebackers corps something they didn’t have last season. Durant entering his 10th season seems to miss a couple of games every season having only managed to play 1 full season. Durant is more of a coverage linebacker having only compiled 3.5 sacks in his career. I think a starting linebacking corps of Brooks Reed, Justin Durant and Paul Worrilow and backups like O’Brien Schofield and Prince Shembo will making the Falcons a lot tougher to run on. Admittedly the secondary still needs help but there is still the draft and post draft free agency to shore up the secondary.
Final Grade: A-