Why the Falcons expect to be top-5 defense in 2018

The Falcons’ defense may be one of the most promising units in the NFL. With young, promising starters at every level of the defense surrounded by experience veterans in the prime of their careers, the Falcons have an advantageous blend of talent, knowledge and upside.

I just feel their intent, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said after Tuesday’s OTAs. I knew it right when we came back; I could see their intent to go for it. I saw it with Vic [Beasley]; I saw it with Grady; I certainly saw it with De’Vondre, [Deion Jones] and Keanu, amongst others. Their ability to now lead I think is getting pretty powerful. We’ve had this spring different presentations they present to the group, now that they know some of the issues.

I’m very encouraged by that group and the way that they can grow together – their toughness, their attitude for competing, how close they are. Yeah, it’s really cool to see.

Still, Jason McIntyre of USA Today’s The Big lead was able to find 10 backs who checked all of the aforementioned boxes and ranked them. And as McIntyre notes in this piece, all 10 are almost all under the age of 25. That latter nugget isn’t so surprising, though. The NFL is a young man’s game; it’s definitely not a world where older running backs flourish, either.

One back who is flourishing would be Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. Atlanta’s fifth-year running back had a bit of a down year in 2017, rushing for 865 yards on 196 carries and seven touchdowns. Freeman also caught 36 passes for 317 yards and a touchdown. The year before, Freeman tallied a career-best 1,079 yards on 227 attempts for 11 touchdowns. And in the passing game, Freeman caught 54 balls for 462 yards and a pair of scores.

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