Rookie outside linebacker Ade Ogundeji played 527 defensive snaps and started 11 games. The Falcons have high hopes for him, but he failed to make many splash plays. He finished with one sack.
“You’re not coaching it, they just figure out a way to get to the quarterback,” general manager Terry Fontenot said. “There are pressure players whether it can be an end, it can be a defensive tackle or linebacker or safety. They just figure out a way to get to the quarterback.”
The Falcons are looking for those players who can increase the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The defense finished last in the NFL with only 17 sacks and also was last in sacks per pass attempt ratio (3.12%).
The Steelers (55), Vikings (51), Rams (50), Bears (49) and 49ers and Dolphins (48) were the top six teams with the most sacks, and all doubled the Falcons output. Actually, there were 18 other teams with at least 34 sacks.
“There’s different ways that they do it,” Fontenot said. “There’s different guys and different ways they do it. But you’re just looking for pressure players.”
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees thought he’d just blitz from everywhere to create pressure. He tried, but the coverage players didn’t hold up in man-to-man defense.
“(When) I watch guys rush the passer, I’ll guarantee you the coach didn’t coach him,” Pees said. “Guys got talent.”
Pees discussed having former pass rusher Terrell Suggs when he was with the Ravens. Suggs was a talented rusher who posted 139 sacks from 2003-19.
“We have got to develop the talent that we have whether it changes,” Pees said. “It’s also going to be us doing a better job. Go to them and get them to do the things we need to do.”
And while they continue to look for players to produce pressure from the outside, the team has to shore up the inside strength and is expected to enter into negotiations to retain Oluokun’s services. Oluokun was not sure if he wanted to test free agency, which starts March 16.
“Really that’s up to my agent,” Oluokun said. “I remember earlier in the season, he said if I don’t get restructured in that (exhibition) season — I’m not just going to take an offer. Just listen and everything, but if the Falcons and I can work it out, that’d be nice.”
Oluokun, who played at Yale, finished a four-year $2.6 million deal which averaged $651,657 annually.
“One for me, where I feel like I could be successful,” Oluokun said on what he’d look for in a team. “I think you know, I don’t really know how free agency works in other people’s minds, but I don’t just want to go where they offer me money and I’m not going to be successful in the scheme. I want to go where I’m going to be successful and we can end up winning games.”
Oluokun believes he can continue to flourish in the new 3-4 defensive scheme.
“So, at the end of the day, I’m still a football player and a competitor,” Oluokun said. “Hopefully people respect me on that level to where I get the money, and I’m playing in the right scheme.”
Atlanta Falcons’ position-by-position analysis:
Part 1: Running backs
Part 2: Quarterbacks
Part 3: Wide Receivers/Tight ends
Part 4: Offensive line
Part 5: Defensive line
Part 6: Linebackers
Part 7: Defensive backs
Part 8: Special teams
The Bow Tie Chronicles