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.