Kyle Pitts: It’s a new aura when it comes to the Atlanta Falcons defense

A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Kyle Pitts loves the energy this revamped Atlanta Falcons defense could manifest this season.

While most people believe that the Atlanta Falcons could have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFC next year, it is all going to come down to if the defense rises to the occasion in The ATL.

Star tight end Kyle Pitts may play on the other side of the ball, but it has become very apparent that things will be different in Flowery Branch this season. With Ryan Nielsen coming over from the arch-rival New Orleans Saints to coordinate the defense, he is hoping to bring the pressure and finally generate a pass rush this franchise has been starving for. Honestly, this is going to happen.

Whether it be the guys he knows and trusts in the locker like defensive tackle Grady Jarrett or cornerback A.J. Terrell, or new guys coming in such as safety Jessie Bates III, defensive lineman David Onyemata or future hall of fame defensive end Calais Campbell, Pitts is so excited to see what this Falcons defense can do. It is one big name after another, and that is simply undeniable.

In my conversation with Pitts from earlier in the week, he told me to keep an eye on Terrell, pass-rusher Bud Dupree and defensive back Jeff Okudah. Like he and I said, it is one dude after another.

"“I mean, it’s awesome. Just seeing those vets in the locker room. There’s plenty more like Bud Dupree. It’s A.J. (Terrell)’s fifth year, so he is in that vet role. So just being around a bunch of guys. It’s a new aura in the locker room. There’s Jeff Okudah. There’s a lot of new faces in there. It’s fun and the defense is pretty exciting.”"

In a very winnable division, the Falcons could be good enough to not only host their first home playoff game at iconic Mercedes-Benz Stadium but be a final eight team in the NFL postseason.

Kyle Pitts is so very excited about this new era of the Atlanta Falcons defense

While we know that the Arthur Smith/Terry Fontenot regime in Flowery Branch has prioritized offensive excellence in its first three drafts, they made it a point to use plenty of precious cap space to reinvent this defense on the fly. Together, they have brought in one high-quality veteran after another to help change the culture on that side of the ball in Atlanta forever going forward.

Even 2023 first-round pick Bijan Robinson sees what the Falcons are building on that side of the ball. In my conversation with him last week, Robinson seems to be so excited that he gets to call defensive studs like Jarrett and Terrell his Falcons teammates. Like Pitts, he knows that if their side of the ball does its job, this team will be in a lot of games. It is all about defense to win them.

I will be totally honest. I thought last year’s defense under Dean Pees showed signs of improvement. Heck, the defense under Coach Smith has always played hard, but hasn’t always had the necessary talent, and particularly the depth, to consistently execute at a high level for 60 minutes. This side of the ball is still a work in progress, but it feels like one seriously trending up.

What makes this season feel different is, yes, we know that homegrown products like Jarrett and Terrell are Pro Bowl-caliber players and cornerstones of this defense, but it is the other guys that are coming in that will help this side of the ball separate and elevate. Bates is elite in the back end. Campbell is Canton-bound. Onyemata knows Nielsen’s scheme. Dupree is a pro. Okudah is ready.

Overall, the production has to overcome the hype. Like I had said previously, this is the most positive ATLiens have felt about the Falcons entering a season since 2017. Of course, not everyone is back on board with the NFC South franchise that has been so incredibly frustrating to watch since 28-3. However, you can feel the energy radiating off guys such as Pitts and Robinson.

Ultimately, we are now entering the beginning stages of the Falcons’ competitive life cycle. Having second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder on a relatively cheap rookie contract with savvy veteran Taylor Heinicke backing him up will afford the Falcons not only opportunities to compete at the position, but use that precious financial capital to construct the best team around them.

Look for key players like Pitts and Terrell to serve as barometers for how well this season goes.

Kyle Pitts spoke with FanSided on behalf of Gatorade, Laureus and the Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls Club.

Gatorade partnered with Kyle Pitts to surprise members of Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls Club at a youth football camp as part of Gatorade’s commitment to make an impact in local communities, further the goal of driving equity in sports and unlock opportunities for every kid to play sports. Gatorade believes that everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from access to sports. 

Through Gatorade’s Equity in Sports partnership with Pitts and Laureus, the Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls Club received a $25,000 Gatorade Equity in Sports community grant. 

Next. Kyle Pitts: Desmond Ridder, A.J. Terrell are tremendous leaders. dark