Dante Fowler- The most significant acquisition of the Falcons offseason, Dante Fowler, will step in for Vic Beasley. However, the Falcons are hoping for way more production than Beasley following Fowler’s 11.5 sack campaign last year with the Rams. The funny part about Fowler is he’s been in the league for five seasons and is still just 25-years-old. He’s improved every step of the way, and the Falcons are hoping that upward trajectory continues.
Takk McKinley- On the opposite side of Fowler is Takk McKinley. Entering his fifth-year, the former first-round pick is hoping to put up similar numbers to Fowler last year, so he can land a lucrative contract this offseason. The Falcons declined his fifth-year option just a couple of weeks ago, but he could still be on their radar if he ups his production.
Grady Jarrett- Dante Fowler may be the sexy addition, but Grady Jarrett is the force in the middle that will feed him. His improvements as a pass rusher have been undeniable, as he set a career-high in sacks last season with 7.5. And when he doesn’t sack the quarterback, he sets his teammates up for success. Jarrett isn’t too shabby against the run either. Outside of Aaron Donald, he can go toe-to-toe with anyone on the interior defensive line.
Marlon Davidson- I could be a little too optimistic with this projection, but I loved the Falcons selection of Marlon Davidson in the second round. He will be a critical part to the defense regardless, but it will probably be a case of — on running downs, Tyeler Davison is in, and on passing downs, it is Marlon Davidson. Either way, I’m thrilled for him to be a part of this defense.
Deion Jones- If Grady Jarrett is the best player on the defense, Deion Jones is a close second. One season removed from a torn ACL, the Falcons are hoping he returns to being a top 3 linebacker in the NFL.
Foye Oluokun- Oluokun has a chance to be a breakout player for the Falcons. He might have already been better than De’Vondre Campbell as a reserve, and he should only improve with more playing time. Falcons fans shouldn’t worry about the linebacker position in nickel packages.
Isaiah Oliver- Going into his third year, Oliver looks to be the CB1 for Atlanta unless A.J. Terrell or Kendall Sheffield outplay him in training camp. Either way, I’d expect Oliver to man one of the outside corner positions.
A.J. Terrell- The Falcons first-round pick should be on the outside as well. We won’t know until Week 1 if he’s ready, but the Falcons desperately need him to step up and start right away.
Kendall Sheffield- Dan Quinn said he believes Sheffield could be a #1 cornerback, but his size and speed make him a perfect fit for the nickel cornerback role in year two.
Keanu Neal- If the Falcons defense is going to reach their full potential, Keanu Neal will have to be at the top of his game. After back-to-back season-ending injuries, it’s easy to forget how much of an impact player he is.
Ricardo Allen- The quarterback of the defense, Ricardo Allen is the guy that knows where everyone is supposed to be. But like Neal, he needs to stay healthy for the Falcons defense to reach their peak.