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Training camp gives us our first glimpse of the Falcons rebuilding plan

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Hint: It involves a young, athletic defense.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Training Camp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve suggested throughout this offseason that the Falcons would like to roll out a young, athletic defense, the kind they haven’t had in a good many years. It’s taken a couple of days of training camp to see that the team is genuinely keen on that outcome.

You have De’Vondre Campbell getting a shot, Deion Jones firmly in the mix, Grady Jarrett expected to be an anchor up front, and Keanu Neal the obvious choice for starting strong safety. The fact that all of these moves were somewhat expected doesn’t lessen the wonder I feel at the prospect of having four players under 25 potentially stepping into starting roles, and I didn’t even mention the likes of Vic Beasley and Ricardo Allen, who are virtual slam dunks to see major playing time.

Things are pretty well settled on the offensive side of the ball, where the primary intrigue is around who will be a stopgap starter at right guard and whether Matt Ryan will bounce back, but that’s not the case for the defense, and that’s the unit that Dan Quinn sort of specializes in. There’s little doubt that Quinn wants this Falcons defense to rival his stellar D in Seattle, and while the Falcons are fresh off a .500 season and still have a million questions on that side of the ball, there’s enough young talent here at last that you can sort of see where this whole thing might be going.

The upshot is that you can’t genuinely expect the Falcons’ defense to be great this year, but it’s no longer about scheming away weaknesses and clinging to veterans, not with so many projected starters under the age of 30 and an intriguing crop of rookies coming in. Rebuilding this Falcons team and turning them back into a playoff-caliber team has thus far involved spending on offense to get missing pieces and taking a more bricks and mortar approach to defense, and we approve of that.

Ideally, the Falcons’ grand plan doesn’t take that long to develop, and we’re looking at an annual contender with a quality offense and a stellar defense. At least we’re seeing the blueprint today.