Atlanta's defensive coordinator search has ended.
The Falcons named Ryan Nielsen as the team's new defensive coordinator on Friday, the team announced.
Nielsen spent the past six seasons with the New Orleans Saints as a defensive line coach and held a co-defensive coordinator title for the 2022 season under Saints head coach Dennis Allen.
New Orleans' defensive front has been one of the league's best units the past few years under Nielsen's direction. In 2022, the Saints finished with a top-five defense in yards allowed per game (314.8), passing yards allowed per game (184.4) and and sacks (48).
Atlanta is well aware of the great defensive play instilled by the likes of Nielsen in New Orleans. The Falcons lost both NFC South matchups to the Saints and hold only one win against their rival in the past three seasons. Both the Falcons and Saints finished the 2022 season with a 7-10 record.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith is hoping the hiring of Nielsen upgrades a defense that underwent a rebuilding upon his arrival in 2021. Atlanta finished second to last in the NFL in sacks (21) in 2022, which was an improvement from the 18 sacks (last in NFL) accrued in 2021.
Nielsen succeeds Dean Pees, who announced his retirement shortly after the Falcons' 2022 season concluded.