John Fricke takes an advance look at the Atlanta Falcons at the positional level. This examination is on the defensive line as training camp begins in 29 days.
Coach: Bryant Young – Defensive Line Coach
Camp Depth Chart
LDE: Brooks Reed, Tak McKinley, Adrian Clayborn
DT: Dontari Poe, Derrick Shelby, Joe Vellano
DT: Grady Jarrett, Courtney Upshaw, Taniela Tupou
RDE: Vic Beasley ***, Rasheed Hageman, Jack Crawford, Chris Odom
*** On some depth charts Beasley is listed as a Strongside Linebacker.
In the not too distant past the current listed 2nd teamers above would have made up the top unit of the Falcons defensive line. In some ways they do now, since the club rotates in different packages the term ‘starter’ is in need of a flexible definition.
This all proves the move to secure depth along the front line and provide.
2016 was a breakout season for rush end Vic Beasley. Beasley led the NFL in sacks with 15.5 and enters his third season looking to solidify his status as one of the premier pass rushers in the game.
His former Clemson (and Atlanta area native) mate Grady Jarrett had a breakout Super Bowl where his 3 sacks and relentless harrasment of Tom Brady might well have won him MVP honors.
Add to those three newcomers all looking to make their mark.
1st round draft pick Tak McKinley led UCLA last season with 18 TFL’s and 10 sacks that led nfl.com to say after his combine performance “closing burst to sideline enables contain. Makes as many effort plays as anyone.”
Dontari Poe was the biggest prize free agent on the defensive line in the NFL. Five season in Kansas City saw Poe racked up 13 sacks and knock down a dozen passes while earning a pair of berths in the Pro Bowl.
Jack Crawford started 11 games for the Cowboys in his 5th NFL season last year. And has grown as a force in each year.
Veterans Adrian Clayborn (21 career sacks, 8 as a Falcon the last two season) Brooks Reed (16.5 career sacks in Houston & Atlanta) join Derrick Shleby, Courtney Upshaw and Ra’Shede Hageman who all contributed major plays and had tremendous impact on the growth of the Falcons defense in 2016.
There is speed, size and now depth along the line. New position coach Bryant Young (a dominating lineman in his NFL career) rejoins Dan Quinn and inherits a group rapidly on the rise.