The Falcons don’t have an imposing defensive front; outside of Grady Jarrett and Dante Fowler, there aren’t many guys that strike fear into opposing offensive linemen. In Talkin’ Birdy’s interview with Scott Bair, the Falcons Digital Managing Editor told us that he believed it would be a rotational group, which I have to agree with. Still, there will be a time where the Falcons defense needs to get off the field, and someone other than the previously mentioned two will have to win a one-on-one matchup. In my 53-man roster projection, I have the Falcons keeping four true edge defenders and six interior defenders.
EDGE: Dante Fowler Jr., Steven Means, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Interior: Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, Tyeler Davison, Ta’Quon Graham, Jonathan Bullard, John Cominsky
Means, JTM, and Ogundeji have been getting the first-team reps while Dante Fowler works his way back from the COVID-19 list. The group’s rookie was the notable one getting reps with the starting defense in Saturday’s open practice at Mercedez-Benz Stadium. He’s won one-on-one reps against every tackle he’s gone against, including Jake Matthews, and is an extremely versatile defender that can move up and down the line depending on if it’s an odd or even front. So far, the early candidate to step up has to be Ogundeji, but Means will surely push for time.
The interior defenders are just as versatile as the EDGE defenders. Davidson will likely backup Jarrett, but I see him competing for the five-technique position next to him with Cominsky and Bullard. Cominsky offers similar flexibility but will be bouncing back and forth from the five-technique to the EDGE.
There are also non-traditional candidates like Brandon Copeland and Mykal Walker. The former was working with the outside linebackers when the team parted ways with Barkevious Mingo. During two seasons under Frank Bush, Copeland recorded a career-high 6.5 sacks. While Walker hasn’t played much at the position, he did in college and has the ingredients to be a SAM linebacker.
Unless Ogundeji, Means, or Cominsky really have a breakout season… this could be an underperforming group. However, if these three could put up somewhere around 12-15 sacks, this defense under Dean Pees could surprise some people. There is a long way to go, but Pees can’t get a consistent pass rush with only Dante Fowler and Grady Jarrett.
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