FBO: Plugging NFC South holes
Offseason issues for the Saints, Panthers, Bucs and Falcons
Football Outsiders completes its Plugging the Holes series, in which it targets the offseason issues facing each team in the NFL by division. For more information on the stats that FBO uses, please go here.
Atlanta Falcons: Can Jamaal Anderson step up on defense?
Last year, the Falcons secretly had the league's second-best run defense, according to DVOA. At minus-16.1 percent (remember, since defense is about not allowing a team yards or points, a negative DVOA is actually better), they were better at stopping the run than vaunted defenses like the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
When the opposition threw? That was another story. Atlanta's 24.0 percent pass defense DVOA was 27th in the league; no one ranked lower than 22nd (Minnesota Vikings) made the playoffs, and the Vikings were the only team in football with a better run defense than Atlanta.
Good pass defense requires an effective pass rush and good coverage, and the Falcons had neither in 2009. The Falcons hoped that a ferocious pass rush would compensate for a mediocre secondary, but Atlanta's sack rate of 5.6 percent was 26th in the league, with star end John Abraham going from 16.5 sacks in 2008 to only 5.5 in 2009. The team leader in sacks was actually defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who had six. There's hope in situational pass-rusher Kroy Biermann, who had five sacks in his sophomore campaign, but the problem here is the guy starting across from Abraham and ahead of Biermann.
The champs are from the NFC South. What's their issue? The Panthers were the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs just two years ago. What's their deal? Tampa has the No. 3 pick. What should it do? To go deeper into the issues of this division, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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With the Super Bowl in the books, Football Outsiders starts looking ahead to 2010 and the biggest issues every NFL team will be facing.February 10: Plugging the Holes - AFC West February 11: Plugging the Holes - NFC West February 12: Plugging the Holes - AFC North February 15: Plugging the Holes - NFC North February 16: Plugging the Holes - AFC East February 17: Plugging the Holes - NFC East February 18: Plugging the Holes - AFC South February 19: Plugging the Holes - NFC South