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Falcons hire Saints' Nielsen as defensive coordinator

David E. Klutho / Sports Illustrated / Getty

The Atlanta Falcons named New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen their new defensive coordinator Friday.

Nielsen joined the Saints in 2017 as defensive line coach before becoming assistant head coach in 2021 and co-defensive coordinator in 2022.

He was also being considered for the Minnesota Vikings' open defensive coordinator position.

New Orleans ranked fifth in yards allowed per game (314.8) and ninth in points allowed per game (20.3) this season. Nielsen's defensive line was also key in amassing 48 sacks, fifth-best in the NFL.

Atlanta's defense ranked 27th in yards (362.1) and 23rd in points (22.7) allowed per game this season. The defense also struggled to get to the quarterback consistently, totaling just 21 sacks. Only the Chicago Bears (20) had fewer.

Before joining the Saints, Nielsen spent time with Northern Illinois and NC State as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.

Nielsen's NFL playing career was short-lived, as he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2002 season after going undrafted out of USC. He also spent time with the Arena Football League's Los Angeles Avengers.

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