Here are five things to know about the Falcons’ defensive line:
Clayborn and Poe may be gone but plenty of talent returns
Although Clayborn has moved on to New England and Poe will not be back after his lone season in Atlanta, the Falcons return six players along the defensive line from 2017: Vic Beasley, Jack Crawford, Grady Jarrett, Takkarist McKinley, Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby. Those six players accounted for 178 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 20 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Beasley and Jarrett have proven they can be among the best at their positions in the NFL, and McKinley was among the best rookie pass-rushers last season, earning six sacks and falling one shy of tying the Falcons’ rookie record. Crawford looked to be poised for a strong season until a biceps injury against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 sidelined him for the rest of the year. Both Reed and Shelby are experienced veterans who understand the Falcons’ defense and can make a handful of impact plays over the course of a season.
“To be honest, I think we were stacked last year, I thought we had a lot of talent,” Crawford said earlier this summer. “And for the most part, we retained a lot of that talent. We have the experience to be elite, it’s just about bringing it together now. We have the chemistry, it’s just about learning good habits and looking at where we can get better from last year.”
Deadrin Senat and Terrell McClain are welcome additions
Following the departure of Poe, the Falcons were expected to address the defensive tackle spot early in the draft. Although Atlanta waited until the third round to add Deadrin Senat, the Falcons like what he brings to the defense.
“We’re very excited,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said after drafting Senat. “We’re going to put him at nose tackle and put him right into the mix with the other guys – with Jack [Crawford] and Grady [Jarrett] and all the guys inside. Let’s let him come in and compete and battle. But he’s got really good quickness for a big guy, strong, square and the effort and toughness and all the things we look for at that position.”
In his four seasons at the University of South Florida, Senat recorded 178 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. During minicamp and OTAs, Senat worked closely with Jarrett, following him around like a shadow.