The Atlanta Falcons might have finally solved their issues at edge rusher with their double down in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how integral the pass rush is to defensive (and overall team) success in the NFL. It makes teams like the Buccaneers dangerous when healthy, and a complete unit like the Bengals find a way to reach a Super Bowl. Teams are always looking to get more interior pressure and depth at edge rusher.
Perhaps no team needed it more in the 2022 NFL Draft than the Atlanta Falcons. They’ve struggled to put together a good unit since John Abraham retired. Vic Beasley, a former top 10 pick, had one successful season with 15 sacks, but it was never replicated. They’ve tried to address the pass rush in free agency and the first round, but it just hasn’t panned out.
This year might be the year things get back on track. The Atlanta Falcons were loaded with capital in the 2022 NFL Draft, and used two of their day two picks at edge rusher. The first was on Arnold Ebiketie out of Penn State.
The Temple transfer produced right away in Happy Valley, showing off an impressive first step, wicked twitch and change of direction skills, and good hand usage at the contact point. His athleticism was always on display, whether it be closing to the quarterback, cornering well on the edge, and working to the ball in pursuit from the backside of plays. That speed and athleticism will be dangerous on the edge getting after the quarterback.
Then, the Falcons selected DeAngelo Malone at pick 82. The Western Kentucky standout was a two-time defensive player of the year in Conference USA (2019, 2021) and has been producing for several years. He has a whopping 48.5 tackles for loss and 25 sacks in his last three seasons.
What stands out with Malone is the speed. The explosiveness he possesses was on display snap after snap. He could cross the face of tackles with near-teleportation quickness and could also threaten the edge without even getting contacted. He’s a little smaller than Ebiketie is, so his role will likely be a little different, but when he’s allowed to pin his ears back, look out.
Grady Jarrett has always needed help on the outside, and it looks like he finally got some in Ebiketie and Malone. It will be very interesting to watch how the two can make an impact in Dean Pees’ defense in 2022 to give the Atlanta Falcons life at edge rusher.