A good defensive tackle can be the crux of a fierce pass rush, but oftentimes that player's efforts go unheralded unless they're generating the Ndamukong Suh sack numbers. It's unlikely that any Falcons defensive tackles will have that kind of heroic effort, but that doesn't mean they won't be an important cog in the Falcons' defensive machine.
With all that said, let's break down what we've got going on. For the purposes of this post, I'll be including NTs, and I'll go with my presumptive starters in the first two spots.
Gotta love the story behind this guy. In my humble opinion, he is essentially the team's next Jonathan Babineaux. He won't be a major force against the run, but his ability to slash in between the guard and center can provide a nice boost to the interior pass rush. He's a guy I'm keeping my eye on for second year improvement.
I keep waiting for this guy to have his "light bulb" moment, but he hasn't quite gotten there yet. There are stretches of games where he is - and I don't use this word lightly - dominant. I remember one series in a Panthers game where he bullied the Panthers' RG on three straight plays to almost single-handedly put a drive to an end. THAT is the Hageman that can be a 10 year starter in this league. The only problem....THAT Hageman disappears for stretches. His issues are well documented, but if he can keep himself composed and keep his head in the game, the sky is the limit for him.
I think the team has already come out and said that Derrick Shelby will play some tackle, so it's likely our starting front 4 may not have Mbu in it, but I think he'll be the first run stuffer off the bench. It depends on what the team wants to do with Hageman. Mbu didn't play a whole heck of a lot last year, but they clearly have high expectations for him if they were willing to part ways with Paul Soliai this year. He's listed as a nose tackle, but at 6'3" 310, he's actually smaller than Hageman and not much bigger than any of our other tackles. I expect him to get significant time this year, but we'll see how it goes.
I expect our pass rush lineup to feature Babs in there somewhere. Despite heading into his age 35 season, Babs still has something left in the tank, and proper utilization of him can lead to positive results. Even in limited action last year, he was ranked by PFF as their 34th best DT. In the grand scheme of things, that's not bad. He won't turn back the clock too far, but there's value to be had with one of the all-time great Falcons.
Don't know much about this kid. He's listed as a DT and is 6'3" 300, which is typical DT size. In a cruel twist of fate, he is actually older than Grady Jarrett despite being a rookie. He was a UDFA out of Kentucky this year, and clicking his profile on the team account reveals....!
Womp womp womp.....
This guy intrigues me just a little bit more than Johnson in part because I have not just an open, but reasonable UGA bias, but also because he's huge. Mayes is listed 6'4" 323, which is much closer to the traditional NT size. He might not make the team, but you can't teach size and run defenders will always have a home on somebody's roster, plus, check out the team profile on him:
Womp womp womp.....
I think this group is slightly above average. We did pretty well against the run last year. I don't think we have any world breakers at the position, but it's fair to see that we could be much worse off. We also have several young guys who can still get better, and it'll be fun watching them grow in the 2016 season.