Atlanta Falcons Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees Sees Improvement Ahead for Defense in 2022

by Nick Geddes

If the Atlanta Falcons are going to improve upon their seven-win campaign last season in 2022, it’s going to start with playing better defense.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows this, and heading into his second season at the helm, feels that great improvement is ahead. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Pees said recently he feels his unit is ready to run 100% of the playbook.

“I kind of know [that] the guys that are back kind of know what to expect,” Dean Pees said. “You know what we’re really looking for. Last year, I’d say we put in, at the end of the year, maybe 60% of the defense that we really want to run. This year, it’s going to be 100%.”

Arrow Pointing Up for Falcons’ Defense in Year 2 Under Dean Pees

In 2021, the Falcons instituted a 3-4 alignment under Pees and the results weren’t pretty. Atlanta surrendered 27.0 points per game, tied for 29th in the NFL. They gave up 364.4 yards per game – 26th in the league – and finished dead last with just 18 sacks.

Pees admitted the entirety of his system wasn’t installed in year one, which will change in year two.

“I just didn’t feel like there were some things last year that we were probably going to be able to digest and be able to do,” Dean Pees said. “The good thing is that we didn’t give up a lot of big plays last year. We did a great job of keeping the ball inside in the perimeter and not giving up big plays.”

The silver lining, as Pees said, was that the Falcons were able to eliminate big plays. The Falcons were the only team not to give up a pass play of 40-plus yards in 2021. The 51 pass plays past 20 yards allowed ranked 15th in the league.

“Part of that was because we didn’t overload them,” Pees said. “Well, I think we’ve learned enough now that we can kind of not overload them, but we can add a lot more to it to be a little more aggressive than maybe we were last year.”

In looking for improvement in the Falcons’ defense, it starts with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. The two-time Pro Bowler had a down year in 2021, producing just one sack and zero forced fumbles. Defensive line coach Gary Emanuel is hardly worried, however, describing Jarrett as a “student of the game.”

“Anytime that you have a player of Grady’s caliber, it makes you excited as a coach more than as a player, Grady is a great person,” Emanuel said. “Great teammate. He’s guy who’s fun to be around and is a student of the game. … To work with Grady is exciting.”