Defensive end Adrian Clayborn spoke to the Atlanta media this week via conference call, and the overall tone he conveyed was one of excitement to be in Atlanta and working with Dan Quinn and the staff he has assembled. When asked if the idea of playing under Quinn, who's known for developing defensive talent, had any influence on his decision to become a Falcon, Clayborn said it definitely had a role in his decision.
He's gotten firsthand intel about Quinn's reputation as a coach from former teammate Michael Bennett. "I asked him about Quinn as a coach, so he had positive things to say."
Clayborn is also familiar with Bryan Cox and Raheem Morris. Clayborn was selected by Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft when Morris was the head coach, and Cox was a defensive coach in Tampa in 2012 and 2013. "It's exciting to have familiar faces," Clayborn said, and particularly Morris. "Coach Morris, because he was the first one to believe in me -- he's the one who drafted me."
Similarly, Clayborn had a good experience working with Cox in Tampa. "It was great," Clayborn said. "He's a good d-line coach and he knows what he's doing, and he knows offensive schemes and he's out there trying to work against it, so he's a good coach."
As a former first round pick, and considering what he's been able to do on the field when healthy, Clayborn's talent is a welcome addition to a defense that desperately needs it. Clayborn is ready to get back on the field. "I just want to come in and help the Falcons get back to playing good defense," Clayborn said. "I've just been out for a year, and last year was supposed to be my best year of my career, so I'm just looking to get back on track, and I'm very hungry to get back at it."
In terms of the challenge of helping to improve a Falcons defense that was near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories last season, Clayborn says that gelling together as a unit as quickly as possible will be key. "I think when you play hard and just get after the quarterback you help the offense, and we'll be fine," Clayborn said. "Because we are good players. It just takes the right gel and takes the right coaching. We'll be great."
At this point, Clayborn says we'll need to wait and see what the coaches' vision for him in this new defensive scheme will be, but it seems like he expects a varied role.. "I'm not sure exactly yet how they're going to use me, because they're going to use me in a couple different places," Clayborn said, "but just from watching the film a lot of the guys move around a lot. So I'm looking forward to playing a couple different positions and just getting after the quarterback."
Rushing the passer obviously is the primary objective, and Clayborn said the key to that is guys having good chemistry. "You look at all the great d-lines, there's guys playing together and knowing what each other's doing," Clayborn said, "and all working as a group."
Clayborn has signed a one-year deal with the Falcons, and he's hoping that turns into something more long term. He'll do what he can to make that happen. "I'm just looking to come in here and play as hard as I can, and the rest will work itself out."