The Atlanta Falcons have won back-to-back road games, improved their record to 2-1 and taken the lead in the NFC South, but looming questions remain for the team’s defense.
For the Falcons to continue their rise, the defense will have to make dramatic improvements to compete with the opponents on the horizon of their schedule.
A telling statistic regarding the Falcons’ defensive failures so far is their leading tackler has been safety Kemal Ishmael with 27 stops. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones follows with 25 tackles.
Atlanta is 29th of 32 teams in passing defense and 22nd in rushing defense.
Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons’ sixth-year linebacker made 10 tackles Monday night. Jones had nine and fourth-year cornerback Robert Alford recorded eight tackles.
Former Adairsville Tigers star, Vic Beasley, had three tackles in Monday night’s win at New Orleans and recorded the Falcons’ first sack of the year the week before. The Atlanta defense, however, continues to rank 30th of 32 teams in total defense and has allowed 433 yards per game and 30.3 points.
Only the two teams the Falcons defeated — New Orleans and Oakland — rank worse in total defense.
The Falcons' inability to put pressure on passers was a major problem in 2015 and the trend has continued in the first three games of 2016. Atlanta and three other teams are tied for 28th in the NFL with three sacks. Only Pittsburgh, with one sack, has fewer. In stark contrast, Minnesota has already recorded 15 sacks this season to lead the league.
The pourous Atlanta defense is preparing to face NFL MVP Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at home this Sunday, followed by road games at Denver and Seattle.
Beasley, a first round pick of the Falcons and second year pro out of Clemson, has five tackles and one sack this season. He is joined on the youthful Atlanta defense by three rookies (LB Deion Jones, Safety Keanu Neal, and LB De’Vondre Campbell) as well as second-year defensive lineman Grady Jarrett.