May 20, 2024

Falcons defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake is quickly recognizing the talent he’s inherited in his new role. Despite the disappointment of the previous season, where the Falcons fell short of playoff expectations, there were notable improvements, particularly on defense. Under former defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, the team, once plagued by one of the league’s weakest passing defenses, saw a significant turnaround, ranking eighth in passing yards allowed per game and ninth in yards allowed per pass.

UW football coach Jimmy Lake suspended one game after hitting and shoving  player on sideline | The Seattle Times

Credit for this defensive resurgence goes not only to Nielsen’s schemes but also to offseason acquisitions orchestrated by general manager Terry Fontenot, who strategically utilized the team’s substantial cap space. Among these acquisitions, star safety Jessie Bates III stood out. Lake praised Bates for his exceptional football prowess, highlighting his ball skills and emphasizing the team’s focus on creating turnovers to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

Bates’s impact was evident throughout the season, earning him a second-team All-Pro recognition. With impressive stats including a career-high 132 tackles, six interceptions, and a notable 92-yard pick-six, Bates demonstrated his ability to disrupt opposing offenses from the backend. Complementing Bates’s performance is Grady Jarrett, a former All-Pro defensive tackle known for his versatility and disruptive presence in both run defense and pass rush. Despite being 30 years old and recovering from a season-ending knee injury, Jarrett remains a key cornerstone in Lake’s defensive strategy.

When considering the formidable trio of Bates, Jarrett, and cornerback AJ Terrell, Lake has a solid foundation upon which to shape the Falcons’ defense moving forward.

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