Level Up!: Which Falcons Defenders Are Set To Rise Up?

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Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) applies pressure to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) in the fourth quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) applies pressure to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) in the fourth quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The time has arrived for the Falcons’ defense to take the next step. Two years into the Dan Quinn era, and the defense is poised for an uptick in production. Leading the way will be the NFL league reigning sack leader, Vic Beasley. While he’s had his share of doubters entering 2016, but he quickly silenced his critics. Beasley became Beastly!

But who else is set to join Beasley at the top?


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Young Guns

Keanu Neal, DeVondre Campbell, and Deion Jones

This trifecta of young defensive talent who arrived together in Atlanta is a three-headed monster. Speed and physicality have already been established among this trio. Now, think about the leap they’ll be able to make in year two within this Falcons’ defense. The read and react time will be elevated, and the quick strike ability they all possess will be magnified.

There is always a progression of learning and understanding in any new system for rookies when entering the NFL. Some flourish earlier than others when making that transition. I would say the Falcons are fortunate to have landed a defensive rookie class who were able to flourish and show numerous flashes in year one. We’re talking about three rookies who not only contributed, but started the majority of games in their first season, including playoff football and Super Bowl snaps. Talk about getting a leg up on the competition.

Growth

Grady Jarrett and Jalen Collins

They, along with Beasley, are entering year three in this Falcons’ defense.

Collin’s knowledge and learning was put to the test when grabbing a starting role opposite Robert Alford while Desmond Trufant recovered from injury. That in-game action is invaluable, and he knows what it takes to start in this league.

Jarrett came into his own as well in year two. Grady’s three sack performance in Super Bowl LI is only a stepping stone for where his game play can be taken to. With his new running mate on the inside, Dontari Poe, should assist, watch them establish themselves as the “Bruise Brothers.”

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another

Takk McKinley, Duke Riley, and Domantae Kazee

Not to get greedy or anything, but how can the Falcons get better? Would adding a couple more defensive playmakers work? The answer is a resounding yes!

Takk McKinley was drafted to team up with Beasley to give the Falcons another pass rusher off the edge which will be difficult for opponents to match up against. If McKinley is as fun on the field as off, then Falcon fans should prepare themselves for a show. Get to the quarterback Takk!

Also, the Falcons added linebacker Duke Riley, who provides depth and will team up with his former LSU teammate Deion Jones. The speed from sideline to sideline will be challenging for opposing offenses.

Let’s not forget the add-on safety. Domantae Kazee is a ball hawking safety known for forcing turnovers (yes, he lists himself as a free safety on his personal twitter profile). I can’t wait to see the newest editions line up and play!

Don’t Forget Us

Robert Alford, Desmond Trufant, and Company

Along with the players mentioned above, the Robert Alford/Desmond Trufant cornerback combo is a top coverage duo. Joining Trufant in returning from injury is Adrian Clayborn, who stood second in sacks among Falcons in 2016, even with his season ending injury. Brian Poole went from undrafted free agent to valuable asset.

As previously mentioned, Dontari Poe was added at defensive tackle, a move which helps stop up the middle of the field. The Falcons will have a formidable defensive front and secondary built to compete thanks to these additions, whether by free agency or return from injury.

Summary

The sincerest form of flattery in the NFL is copying a blueprint when a team is shown to be successful. Easier said than done of course, but teams are starting to envy how quickly Quinn was able to transform and build a defense within a two year period. Not just drafting on players’ potential, but drafting immediate, contributing starters.

The Falcons’ defense, I believe, has a chance to move into top ten in the league. A top ten defense to go hand in hand with a top scoring offense will give the Falcons every opportunity to cash in on a Lombardi.

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