FLOWERY BRANCH – The top offseason priority for the Falcons has been to figure out how to generate a ferocious pass rush.
The coaches will point out that pass rush isn't all about sacks. You also have to count quarterback hurries and hits.
The Falcons had 19 sacks, 70 quarterback hurries and 75 quarterback hits on 561 pass plays. That's an anemic pass-rush ratio of 3.42 percent. Their sack ratio of 3.39 percent was last in the league.
We have written quite a bit on the topic in wake of the Falcons electing not to directly address the situation in the NFL draft.
The Falcons are hoping that better coverage on tight ends and running backs while give the pass rush more time to close in on quarterbacks.
Linebacker/defensive end Vic Beasley had four sacks, 22 hurries and five quarterback hits as a rookie. He was a factor on 31 plays. Defensive line coach Bryan Cox said they have to find a way to turn some of those 22 hurries and five hits into sacks.
The Falcons are also counting on improvement from defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who lead the team with 15 quarterback hits. The Falcons also added Derrick Shelby in free agency and he showed some pass-rush promise playing behind Cameron Wake in Miami.
The Falcons have also looked at Courtney Upshaw and Brooks Reed at defensive end. During the exhibition season, the Falcons want to look at Ivan McLennan, an undrafted rookie signee from Washington State. Defensive coordinator Richard Smith said he's shown some pass-rush ability.
The Falcons must also find out if linebacker/defensive end Tyler Starr, a seventh-round pick in 2014 who’s been hanging around for two seasons, can play.
Last season, Beasley had 22 hurries followed by O'Brien Schofield (11). Adrian Clayborn (nine), Jonathan Babineaux (eight), Tyson Jackson (seven), Brooks Reed (seven) and Paul Worrilow (six).
Last season, the Falcons had 75 quarterback hits, according to NFL Games Statistics and Information System. Clayborn led the way with 15 quarterback hits followed by Schofield (13), Babineaux (nine), Ra'Shede Hageman and Kroy Biermann (six), Beasley and Soliai (five), Paul Worrilow (four), Grady Jarrett, Nate Stuper, Desmond Trufant and Reed (two) and Maliciah Goodman, Ricardo Allen, Tyson Jackson and Philip Wheeler (one).
Here are some of the stories from the offseason on the Falcons’ pass rush:
PROJECT PASS RUSH