Atlanta Falcons: Pass Rush Improvement Must Come From Within

Atlanta Falcons, De'Vondre Campbell #59 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons, De'Vondre Campbell #59 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons, De’Vondre Campbell #59 (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

How the Atlanta Falcons Should Incorporate De’Vondre Campbell as a Pass Rusher

There are a myriad of ways that the Atlanta Falcons can generate more pass rush snaps, for the versatile De’Vondre Campbell. One way to give him more chances to sack the quarterback, is for Dan Quinn to call more blitz plays on defense. Quinn who now doubles as the team’s head coach and defensive coordinator, prefers to generate a pass rush using a four man rush with stunts. However Atlanta dialed up a significantly higher number of blitz schemes, in the team’s final three games of last season. Continuing that trend and sending Campbell more as a blitzer, would increase his pass rushing reps.

Another way the Atlanta Falcons can create more opportunities for De’Vondre Campbell to rush the passer, is by allowing him to play more snaps with his hand in the ground as an edge rusher. Third and long situations, would be the best time for the Falcons to deploy this strategy. The team could kick defensive end Takk McKinley inside beside either Grady Jarrett or Jack Crawford on such plays and alow Campbell to rush opposite of Vic Beasley. The Falcons could also rotate De’Vondre Campbell with McKinley, Beasley and Adrian Clayborn on the outside in passing situations, while keeping both defensive tackles Jarrett and Crawford on the field in case there is a slight threat of a team running for the first down. The versatility of Campbell gives the Atlanta Falcons a world of possibilities.

Coach Dan Quinn has had plans to use the versatility that De’Vondre Campbell possesses in the past. He was quoted as saying such in this AJC article by D. Orlando Ledbetter about Campbell:

"“He’s a guy, coming into the season, that was on a mission not only from a pass-rush standpoint, improving his coverage skills,” Quinn said. “We’ll lean on that versatility.”"

Unfortunately for coach Dan Quinn and De’Vondre Campbell, the pass rush opportunities for Campbell have been few and far between. That is mostly due to the state of the Atlanta Falcons linebacker corps. Other than Pro Bowl stud Deion Jones, De’Vondre has been the team’s second best linebacker by far in the last three seasons. In order for Campbell to rush the passer more, another linebacker must step up and instill enough confidence in the coaching staff, to earn a regular spot as a nickel linebacker.

Second year linebacker Foye Oluokun showed promise last year as a rookie sixth round draft pick out of Yale and gives and is a decent candidate to fill that role. He gives the Atlanta Falcons a much better option than the struggling Duke Riley, a 2017 round three pick from LSU. Veteran Bruce Carter was resigned and has shown good coverage ability in the past. Young linebacker Jermaine Grace is also on the team’s roster, but is mostly used on special teams coverage units, on the rare occasion he gets the opportunity to play.

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Dan Quinn is certainly aware that pass rushing skills are a part of De’Vondre Campbell’s arsenal. It is just a matter of the Atlanta Falcons roster, allowing him to use Campbell in that role more often. Free agent linebackers like Zach Brown and Jamie Collins would help in that regard, but the team is short on cap space, even after releasing guard Brandon Fusco. The team would need to come to a contract extension agreement with Julio Jones or Grady Jarrett, in order to free up the salary cap space to make such a signing, so that is off of the table for now. Stephone Anthony is a failed first round draft pick, but he has the physical ability to be good in a coverage role and could come on a cheap one year deal prove it deal. Whatever the team must do to make it possible, using De’Vondre Campbell more as a pass rusher, is an important step to improving the team’s ability to affect opposing team’s quarterbacks.

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