Left Defensive End Starter (SDE): Adrian Clayborn
It is the new era of pass-rushers for the Atlanta Falcons. Ever since John Abraham was not re-signed by Atlanta a couple of years ago, the lack of pass-rushers has haunted this team for years. Atlanta has just have not been able to take down the opposing quarterback like an NFL team should be able to. That is why new players have been brought to this team with a new head coach at the helm. If Adrian Clayborn can stay healthy, I would expect him to be starting for this team in 2015. Clayborn is a big boy, as he stands at 6-4 and weighs in at about 280 pounds. He played one game last year, as he was injured for the rest of the year with a torn biceps injury. When he has been able to stay on the field, he has been effective. He was a first-round draft pick in 2011, so the potential is there. He is still young, and hopefully defensive coordinator Richard Smith can help Clayborn and his technique.
Backups: Malliciah Goodman, Tyson Jackson
One thing Atlanta is not lacking at this position is size. Clayborn, Goodman, and Jackson are all around the 280 pound mark. Goodman was drafted in the fourth-round in 2013, and he is a development project in the Falcons organization’s eyes. Goodman isn’t a household name, and has had a slow start to his career, but he is starting to develop each and every year. Goodman was a defensive tackle last year in the Mike Nolan scheme where “sacks don’t matter”, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. It seems like Dan Quinn is implementing “sacks do matter”, which might be shocking to all Falcons fans. Moving on, Tyson Jackson should make a roster spot because even though he is not worth nearly as much as his contract, he still has worth to the team. He brings a veteran leadership to the newcomers, and Jackson still can hold his own.
Right Defensive End/LEO Starter: Vic Beasley
When it comes to this team, I am brutally honest in how I see things playing out. I say with 99.99% certainty that selecting Vic Beasley will turn out for the best for Atlanta in the future. I’m not saying he will have double-digit sacks this year, but I believe he will in the upcoming years. He is a rookie though, so he will have some growing pains in the NFL. That is how players become better in this league, getting out on the field and getting their feet wet. In Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme, Beasley will playing the “LEO” position. Someone who plays the “LEO” position has to be very athletic and versatile, and Beasley fits those descriptions. Even though I have yet to see Beasley play a down in the NFL, I still expect him to beat out his competition to become the starter. Beasley is too good to be sitting on the sidelines, and I see him holding this position down for years.
Backups: Kroy Bierman, O’Brien Schofield
For any Falcons fans that are advocates of Kroy Biermann, coming in on situational downs would be the best thing for him. If Atlanta ever wants to be a serious contender again, Biermann is not a guy who should be starting. For years and years, Biermann has seemed to digress in certain areas of his game. The amount of missed tackles and overrunning plays is mind-boggling to watch. 12 might not seem like a high number of missed tackles, but his failure to tackle has resulted in very big gains for the opposing teams. Watching game-film, Biermann does give most plays 100% effort, so I take nothing away from his effort on the field. O’Brien Schofield could take his second-string backup role. Schofield played in every game in Seattle last season, but he was used very sparingly. His stats will not impress, but he reminds me of Goodman in the fact he is developing. I would love to see these two fight it out over the summer to see which player will be the second-stringer will be. I see both playing a rotational role for Atlanta.