The Falcons’ decades-long project to create a pass rush has yet to pay consistent dividends.
The latest pass-rush savior, Dante Fowler, started the season playing injured on a bum ankle, but he’s healthy now and will be on the hot seat against the Panthers because the Falcons need to jump-start the pass-rush.
The teams are set meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Fowler, who has recorded one sack through four games, said he’s finally healthy.
“I feel like we are just kind of having some injuries, everybody is not playing. This is probably my first game actually feeling somewhat 95 to 100%, you know what I mean,” Fowler said. “It’s a long season. We just have to weather the storm, that’s all I have to say.”
The Falcons have recorded only seven sacks through four games and are on pace to match last season’s anemic output of 28. Fowler signed a three-year, $45 million deal in free agency to replace Vic Beasley, the team’s leading sacker last season, who had eight.
Fowler had a break through last season with the Rams, when he finished with 11.5 sacks.
“I admire him playing through his injury through the first couple of weeks and throughout training camp,” Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. “Last game (at Green Bay on Monday night), we saw a chance to see him get a little bit healthy. You saw him make a big-time play, making some tackles for losses. He’s able to do those things.”
Fowler is familiar with how the Falcons started 1-7 last season, but rallied to go 6-2 over the second half of the season.
“I feel like last year they went on a run, and I feel like we can do the same thing,” Fowler said. "It’s never over. We have three more quarters left. Four games in every quarter, so that’s 12 more games left.
“Now, you just have to be patient with us a little bit and good things will happen. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves. We just have to pick it up and find a way, figure something out and we will.”
Morris sees Fowler rounding back into form.
“He’s going to get more explosive as the season goes on,” Morris said. “We look forward to that, especially a player like Dante who can change the game on one play.”
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett leads the team with 2.5 sacks, and defensive end Charles Harris has two sacks. Fowler and Takk McKinley have a sack and linebacker Deion Jones has a half sack.
The Panthers have given up eight sacks this season.
Falcons' next four games
Panthers at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11
Falcons at Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18
Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 25
Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29
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