June 25, 2024

Despite a flurry of free agent additions to the defensive roster, the Falcons still have significant gaps to address as they approach the NFL Draft. General Manager Terry Fontenot appears to be following his usual offseason strategy of acquiring cost-effective veterans to bolster the roster before focusing on drafting the best available talent.

Recent signings like Kevin King, Antonio Hamilton, Eddie Goldman, and James Smith-Williams address some of the Falcons’ key positional needs. However, Fontenot’s initial focus on offensive signings, including Kirk Cousins and Darnell Mooney, suggests that the team may prioritize offensive firepower.

While the offensive line and skill positions seem solidified, the defense remains a concern. With the departure of defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen and key sack leaders, the defense lacks significant reinforcements. This could pose challenges for a team with high aspirations for the upcoming season, including owner Arthur Blank’s expectations of postseason success.

The absence of adequate replacements for departed defensive personnel indicates potential growing pains for the Falcons’ defense in the upcoming season.

While Jimmy Lake could potentially step up, the concern lies more in the remarkable job done by Nielsen. Losing key sack leaders like Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, who tallied 6.5 sacks each last season, and replacing them with James Smith-Williams, who hasn’t exceeded three sacks in his career, raises doubts about the defensive front’s effectiveness.

Perhaps the new coaching staff has confidence in players like Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, and Zach Harrison to fill the void left by Campbell and Dupree. Additionally, the draft could bring in top pass rushers like Dallas Turner, Jared Verse, or Laiatu Latu. However, relying on unproven talents, especially for a team with high expectations accustomed to selecting the best player available, is risky.

Moreover, the secondary remains unsettled. Besides A.J. Terrell, there’s uncertainty at the other cornerback position, with players like Antonio Hamilton and Kevin King possibly not being the answer. Depending on Clark Phillips, Mike Hughes, and Dee Alford to fill secondary roles for a team aiming for a championship seems risky.

While there’s still time in the offseason and the draft could bring solutions, the Falcons’ historical approach of prioritizing the best player available rather than reaching for positional needs adds to the uncertainty surrounding the defense. As it stands, the Falcons’ defense appears to be a potential weakness heading into the season.

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