Dean Pees on the Falcons’ pass rush: ‘We’re coming from everywhere’

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees discusses how the unit will be multiple as they flex between the 3-4 and 4-3.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees has a master plan to revive the team’s anemic pass rush.

“I want the offense to know that we’re coming from everywhere,” Pees said Friday. “You can’t just say No. 54 is going to blitz. It could be 24, 20, 26. I’m talking about our secondary guys, too. Look, I want them to account for everybody.”

The Falcons finished near the bottom of the NFL in sacks over the past three seasons. The Falcons were tied for 24th with 29 sacks this season, 28 sacks (29th) in 2019 and 37 sacks (25th) in 2018.

The last time they had a double-digit sacker was in 2016, when Vic Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks. This season, linebacker Deion Jones led the Falcons with 4.5 sacks.

Pees has a plan to change things. He noted that most defensive coordinators would prefer to have four rushers and post 50-plus sacks in a dream scenario.

“But you know if we can’t do that, we can’t,” Pees said. “One of the things that our defense will know, if you’re on our defense, every position will blitz. Every position. Not just the safeties. Not just the linebackers. It’s corners. It’s everybody.”

In 2019 as the defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans, Pees’ defense had 43 sacks and ranked 13th in the league. In 2018, they had 39 sacks, which ranked 18th.

“As a player, it’s kind of like a receiver, I want to run a route, but I want to know if I have a chance to get the ball,” Pees said. “I don’t want to run a route and know that I’m never going to get the ball, right?

“If I’m a defensive player and we’re going to blitz and bring pressure, I’d like to know that I’m going to be a part of that thing, too. We’ll do whatever we have to do pressure-wise, four-man rush-wise or whatever we have to do to put pressure on a quarterback.”

Pees didn’t want to get pinned to an alignment.

“I get asked that question all the time, are we going to be 3-4 or 4-3,” Pees said. “I’m going to tell you, yes. We’re going to be multiple. That’s what we’ve always been.”

Pees noted that as defensive coordinator he was multiple during his stints with Baltimore (2012-17) and Tennessee (2018-19), while he played more 3-4 while with New England (2006-09).

“Our philosophy is going to be, we’ll be multiple but simple,” Pees said. “Simple on the back end and really multiple up front. Our talent on our roster will dictate what we are going to do. Not me.”

Pees has been studying the Falcons from last season.

“These guys run to the ball, and they can run,” Pees said. “That’s the first thing that I looked at. I don’t care about what they did scheme-wise. It’s not fair for me to compare or to even comment on what they did because I wasn’t here. I don’t know. But I know this, they can run and they can hit, and I love that.”

One game stood out in particular for Pees.

“They looked pretty dadgum good against Kansas City, now,” Pees said. “They played as good as anybody has against them. So, that’s what we are going to pull for.

“That’s the stuff that we are going to build on right there. We don’t need to build on something else. We’re going to build on that performance and how they played right there.”

On Dec. 27, the Falcons had the defending Super Bowl-champion Chiefs on the ropes, but rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell couldn’t haul in an interception in the end zone, and Younghoe Koo missed a field-goal attempt that would have sent the game into overtime. The Chiefs prevailed 17-14.

“That was a great game they played, and they had a chance,” Pees said. “They had a great chance. The defense played spectacular. That’s what we are going to build on.”

Pees, 71, came out of retirement because he missed the action and wanted to work with Falcons coach Arthur Smith.

“The thing of it is, I got to do a radio show in Tennessee on Fridays this past season,” Pees said. “So, during the week I would look at all of the other team’s offenses. So, I got to really stay in it and really watch film. The more I watched, the more I missed it.”

Pees believes his plan for flexibility will work as opposed to playing one scheme that the defense knows and practices on a regular basis.

“In 2012, I’m with the Baltimore Ravens, we lost (linebacker) Ray Lewis for 10 games,” Pees said. “People don’t remember that. We lost (linebacker Terrell) Suggs for eight games. We won the Super Bowl.

“Well, during that time we also lost a couple of corners. We changed weekly. We had new guys in there every week changing it up. ... That obviously worked pretty well to our advantage because we got those guys back in the playoffs and made a great run.”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

2. New York Jets

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

4. Falcons

5. Cincinnati Bengals

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