Justin Durant's journey to the Atlanta Falcons is a noteworthy one. Sure, he just signed a shiny new contract with the Falcons yesterday. But the process by which he landed in Atlanta began a long time ago. At the outset of that voyage was former Falcons linebacker and beloved member of D-Block, Mike Peterson.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Durant is a Mike Peterson disciple. Learned a lot from him in Jax.</p>— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) <a href="https://twitter.com/FalconsJAdams/status/575704705680068608">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
In a way, what we got with Peterson is what we can reasonably expect to get from Durant. Solid football and fantastic leadership. Will his signing magically propel the Falcons to the Superbowl? Probably not. But that's OK, that's not what's expected.
Durant's recent struggles are the result of a torn bicep. It limited his playing time last year, when he only appeared in six games before finding himself on injured reserve. He's earned a reputation as a guy who can't stay healthy; it's detracted from the reality of who he can be when healthy: a dynamic, high energy player. When my Cowboys fan friend heard the Falcons had signed Durant, he dismissively said something along the lines of, "Good luck with that." It's a fair perspective, though I have a sneaky suspicion Durant is being overlooked.
As some of you pointed out yesterday, Durant's signing is about building a solid foundation. Assuming he stays healthy, his unique blend of stout run defense and sideline-to-sideline running ability is a pretty good place to start. And as to questions surrounding his health, all indications are that he's good to go. Durant addressed the media today and it doesn't sound like there are any lingering effects from the injury.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Durant was cleared two weeks ago from biceps injury</p>— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) <a href="https://twitter.com/vxmcclure23/status/575703750666510336">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Durant won't be limited in any of his off-season activities going forward. He will be a full participant in the first Falcons off-season under Quinn's watchful eye. Speaking of Quinn, when you hear Durant talk about playing for the Falcons, it's almost like we recruited him.
Durant raved about Quinn's defense today, saying he specifically talked to Cliff Avril about it before signing with the Falcons. Avril played under Quinn the last two seasons in Seattle, and if you want to know what it's like to play under a certain coach or within a certain scheme, a consultation with a former player is a good place to start.
So what am I ranting and raving about? What's all this about a path to the Falcons? Well, to be frank, it really comes down to who Durant is, both as a player and a man. He's the sort of building block that Quinn will use to build up the franchise. He's the archetype Quinn will seek out in future player evaluation. He's not a splash free agent signing, but that's really not the point.