Yesterday, I projected the Falcons starting offense. There weren’t too many surprises outside of the left guard battle, but the defense is a little more difficult to predict.
Defensive end: Dante Fowler Jr. and Takk McKinley
Dante Fowler Jr. is an extremely versatile piece that can be used in several ways. We should see Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris make the most of his abilities. So is Takk McKinley, who is reportedly down over twenty pounds this offseason. However, the primary job for each of these guys is to get after the passer.
Defensive Tackle: Grady Jarrett and Tyeler Davison
Grady Jarrett is the heart and soul of this Falcons defense and will be playing on nearly every down. Tyeler Davison will primarily be featured on running downs, with guys like Allen Bailey, John Cominsky, and eventually, Marlon Davidson rotating in on passing situations. However, if everything goes to plan — once he is 100% healthy — Marlon Davidson will be the primary starter next to Grady Jarrett. The Falcons are expecting big things from their 2020 second-round selection.
Linebackers: Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun
I don’t think there is any debate about who the Falcons two featured linebackers will be. Deion Jones is one of the best in the business, and Oluokun has done more than enough to earn a job as a starter over the last two seasons. The real question is, who will be the third linebacker when the Falcons are facing heavier packages? Rumors are rookie fourth-round pick Mykal Walker has been very impressive in training camp. We might see a lot more of him this season than originally expected when he was drafted.
Outside Cornerbacks: A.J. Terrell and Isaiah Oliver
The Falcons first-round pick this year, A.J. Terrell, has been working with the ones all training camp, showing some skill and swagger from the jump. Not only do I believe he will be starting on the outside for Atlanta, but he will also be considered their #1 corner in Week 1. The battle for that second cornerback spot is between Oliver and Kendall Sheffield. However, Sheffield has received a lot of looks on the inside, which is telling, as far as who will be starting on the outside against the Seahawks.
Nickel Cornerback: Darqueze Dennard
Dennard’s played his best when featured as a nickel cornerback. When asked about the Falcons newest addition a couple of weeks ago, Keanu Neal’s eyes lit up. Neal has been amazed at how well Dennard has played as the slot corner, which tells us he’s likely to start there in Week 1.
Safety: Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen
This one is interesting because the Falcons have three starting-caliber safeties, and they will all get significant playing time. But until I see someone start over Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen when they are healthy, I’m not going to believe it. These two guys should be the starting safeties, but Damontae Kazee will be pushing them throughout the season.