The Falcons haven’t drafted a reliable pass rusher in decades. John Abraham was the last one that really struck fear into opponents, and he was acquired in free agency. Vic Beasley looked like he was on the right path, but his 2016 15.5 sack campaign proved to be a mirage.
There have been attempts in the draft, not as many as there should have been, but shots nonetheless. It’s something the Falcons must get corrected if their defense wants to take the next step from good to elite, and 2022 second-round selection Arnold Ebiketie is beginning to look like one of the first building blocks on the edge.
In the first season and a half of his NFL career, the Penn State product had some flashes, but overall, was somewhat of a disappointment, recording just four sacks through 23 games. However, over his last five games, he’s matched that number, coming up with several critical plays as the Falcons have taken over first place in the NFC South.
Falcons edge Arnold Ebiketie, a second-round pick from Penn State last year, had four sacks total in his first 23 NFL games, but now has four sacks in the last five games, keying an improved pass rush for Atlanta.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 6, 2023
It is one of the most promising developments in recent weeks for the future of the Falcons. But interestingly, Arnold Ebiketie is producing at this rate while not being on the field very much.
Last week against the Jets, Ebiketie was only on the field for 17 snaps (25%). That was the lowest percentage of defensive snaps he’s had since Week 3 against the Lions, but it wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. Over this recent five game stretch in which he’s recorded four sacks and forced two fumbles, he’s only been on the field for more than 35% of the defensive snaps once.
That’s something to watch as the season continues. Ebiketie nows leads the Falcons in sacks with 5.5, which is just a half a sack behind Grady Jarret’s total from a year ago, who led the team in the category. Unless they are generational players, it usually takes 2-3 years for pass rushers to come into their own, and it looks like the Falcons might have finally found a good one in Arnold Ebiketie, as Terry Fonenot’s second draft class begins to take shape.
Photo: Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire