The Falcons haven't gotten much from the defensive end position over the past couple of seasons.
John Abraham, who spent seven years with the team, was cut after posting a 10-sack season in 2012. Atlanta tried to replace Abraham with Osi Umenyiora, but that didn't work out so well.
The Falcons' official roster lists six defensive ends, and those players will operate on the strong side in Dan Quinn's 4-3 under scheme. The players opposite at the LEO – namely Vic Beasley, the Falcon's eighth overall pick — are listed as outside linebackers.
Let's take a look at Atlanta's current defensive ends.
Clayborn, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, was signed to a one-year, prove-it deal a few days after free agency began. The fifth-year veteran has struggled with injuries, playing in just 36 games and totaling 13 sacks. As a rookie, Clayborn flashed the pass-rushing potential that made him a first-round selection. There's a role for him if he can stay healthy, whether outside or inside in subpackages.
After bulking up for an inside role in whatever Mike Nolan's defense was, the current coaching staff moved Goodman back to end and asked him to lose 25 pounds. The 6'4'', 276-pound Clemson product has ridiculously long arms, and Quinn has said on several occasions he likes length in players. Goodman may become a solid contributor — and he may not — but one thing's for certain: he'll actually be placed in a position to succeed.
It's early, but Atlanta's second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is looking to make an impact this upcoming season, as he showed up to offseason workouts in great shape. The 6'6'' Hageman has both the athleticism and versatility to play across the defensive line, but he could be particularly disruptive as the strong side end, as he's listed, or as the under tackle.
Jackson wasn't nearly as effective against the run with the Falcons last season as he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, but like most of the players on defense, he wasn't exactly put in a place to take advantage of his strengths. With that said, Jackson is strictly a five-tech defensive end and may still be miscast in Quinn's scheme. However, his contract may keep him with the team for another season.
The Falcons re-signed Matthews to a two-year, minimum salary deal back in February. He has managed to stick around for his special teams value, and he provides decent depth. His role will likely remain the same if he's still on the roster once the regular season starts.
Meredith earned himself a contract after a successful rookie minicamp tryout a couple of weeks ago. He has good size at 6'4'', 290 pounds, but would probably have to have an incredibly impressive camp to make the final roster. For him, a spot on the practice squad seems likely.
Atlanta receives improved play from its defensive ends, with Clayborn and Hageman leading the pack. The position may not produce a ton of sacks, but the two aforementioned players certainly have the ability to be disruptive forces.
What's your outlook for the defensive ends in 2015?