In my previous story I went through the offensive players on the Falcons that I think will make the 2022 Atlanta Falcons roster. Now, who makes this team on the defensive side of the ball? As with the offensive players, there are a hand full that are locks to start and also be backup players on rotation. Then there are many that are on the bubble trying to make this squad. Let’s go through each defensive position and see who makes the team.
The defensive line for the Falcons was one of the worst in the league last year. Leading the way in sacks last year didn’t even come from the defensive line. It was from two linebackers Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun with two sacks each that lead the team. There were multiple players on the defensive line that had one sack including Grady Jarrett and Marlon Davidson. This year they are hoping for a better outcome under second year Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees. Last year Pees opened his defensive book up 60% of the time. This year that book is wide open at 100%, where he will unleash his entire defense. Got to get more pressure to the quarterback.
Free agents from the New York Giants defensive end Lorenzo Carter and Chicago Bears defensive lineman Eddie Goldman, are hoping to improve that stat. Carter is coming back home where he played college for the Georgia Bulldogs. Edge rusher drafted in the second round this year from Penn State, Arnold Ebiketie, is looking to put the nasty back in this defensive line.
Defensive Line: Grady Jarrett, Lorenzo Carter, Eddie Goldman, Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, Anthony Rush, Derrick Tangelo, Vincent Taylor, Nick Thurman, Jalen Dalton, Marlon Davidson
This was one of the most productive positions on defense during the 2021 season, but still underperformed in many ways. Linebacker Jones and Oluokun as mentioned above led the way for the team in sacks with two each, which is not very production. The most consistent linebacker on the team last year was Foye Oluokun, who moved from weak-side linebacker in 2020 under the 4-3 scheme to middle linebacker in 2021 under the 3-4 defensive scheme.
Oluokun led the team in tackles in 2021 season with 192 takles to go along with his two sacks and three interceptions. But Oluokun travelled down the I-95 freeway to play for Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones isn’t even promised a spot on this team this year, so others need to step up. Drafted in the third round this year from Montana State, Troy Andersen, will need to be one of those guys. He reminds me of former Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. So who makes the linebacker squad?
Linebackers: Troy Andersen, Deion Jones, Jordan Brailford, Dorian Etheridge, Rashaan Evans
The Falcons will have a completely new safety squad playing in the secondary. Second year man out of Central Florida Richie Grant is expected to take the free safety position while in his third year as a pro out of California, Jaylinn Hawkins is suppose to take the reigns as the hard hitting strong safety. Both received plenty of playing time during the 2021 season, and this year they will be thrown into the fire, as Head Coach Arthur Smith states a lot.
Starting safety last year Erik Harris will take a back seat in 2022, but still will be in the mix for playing time. Rounding out the safety squad remains to be seen as we are a couple weeks away from training camp. There is currently only three safeties on the roster, and all three make the team. With the team having a nickel/dime packages for cornerbacks, will solidify another defensive back in the middle. But this is who I got.
Safeties: Jaylinn Hawkins, Richie Grant, Erik Harris,
The Falcons finally have an island on the team, and that island is named Terrell island. During the 2021 year, Terrell only allowed 4.1 yards a catch from receivers he was covering. Quarterbacks only completed 41% of their passes that where thrown his way. Terrell coming into his second year as a pro out of Clemson, has been getting a lot of praise from his rookie year last season, now he has to put it all together and back that praise up with a shutdown season on his cornerback island. On the other side of the cornerback position will be free agent from the Las Vegas Raiders Casey Hayward.
Hayward is an 11-year pro out of Vanderbilt. Hayward gives the Falcons a solid cornerback spot alongside Terrell. Isaiah Oliver will be the inside cornerback starter, manning the middle. Two years ago under Head Coach Dan Quinn, Oliver played the outside cornerback position and got burned majority of the time. Burned enough to even be considered to be cut. But this last year, Head Coach Smith moved Oliver to the middle, and he was having a solid year before a season ending injury. So look for Oliver to bounce back in nickel, dime packages.
Cornerbacks: A.J Terrell, Casey Hayward, Isaiah Oliver, Cornell Armstrong, Dee Ford, Corey Ballantine
The most forgotten part of a football team, but one of the most important parts of the football team is the special teams. The Falcons have always hit it right with place kickers. Punters, and hall of fame kickers Morten Andersen and Matt Bryant have manned the kicking job for 20 plus years combined for the Falcons, and Georgia Southern alum Younghoe Koo is entering his fourth year with the Falcons and is a lock to be the starting place kicker once again.
There will be a competition with the punters. I can’t say who wins that position, but free agent from Tampa Bay with eight years of experience, Bradley Pinion, might be the choice at the beginning of the season. Ten year veteran out of Missouri, Beau Brinkley, is expected to take over the long snapper position in 2022, but he is currently on the injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. No other word about this injury so there might be an open competition in training camp for the long snapper position if Brinkley can’t return to three field.
Special Teams: Younghoe Koo, Bradley Phinion, Beau Brinkley
This rounds out the defense and special teams players that make the 2022 Atlanta Falcons roster. I have 25 players make the team on offense, 25 on defense, and three special teamers.