Commentary

Atlanta Falcons' D is close to elite

Falcons must get another edge rusher, shore up rush defense

Originally Published: July 14, 2011
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Brent Grimes & Dunta RobinsonGetty ImagesAtlanta's starting cornerbacks gave up the fewest YPA of any tandem in the league last season.

The Atlanta Falcons have had the most controversial NFL offseason from a personnel moves perspective because of the draft-day trade they made with the Cleveland Browns to get the first-round pick they used to select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.

The Dirty Birds took a lot of grief for this move for many reasons.

The most widely noted of these is the perception they paid too much for a wide receiver. Rookies at that position often don't contribute immediately and therefore the thought is that Jones won't help the Falcons get through the Super Bowl window that looks to be open for them right now.

As true as that statement generally is, an Insider article in May detailed how Jones' skill set is a perfect fit for the Atlanta offense and should allow him to vault the Falcons' passing game into a higher gear.

Having said that, even if the Jones scenario pans out as planned, picking up a wideout with that draft pick also meant that Atlanta was not able to draft one of the 11 available defensive prospects at No. 6 that Scouts Inc. had ranked as a 90 or higher (their benchmark for a "rare prospect").

That side of the ball certainly looks like it needs its share of upgrades, as the Falcons had multiple defensive statistical weaknesses, including rushing yards per attempt (YPA) allowed (4.6, tied for 27th in the league) and sacks (31, tied for 20th).

As bad as those numbers are, a closer look at the metrics shows that Atlanta is actually in terrific shape on defense and could be on the verge of becoming one of the best defenses in the NFL.


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