It's fun to speculate about where the big names will end up during the free agency carousel, but the Falcons were never going to be serious contenders for a big ticket free agent. They'll stick to re-signing their own guys, signing mid to lower tier free agents, and building through the draft.
The first free agent from another team Atlanta signed was defensive lineman Jack Crawford from the Dallas Cowboys, who they inked yesterday afternoon. A few days ago I wrote about some of the athletic thresholds the Falcons appear to have in place and Jack Crawford definitely fills the requirements there. Per Mockdraftable.com, Jack Crawford ranks in the 78th percentile for the 3 cone drill and the 76th percentile for the broad jump when compared to all other defensive linemen.
Jack Crawford was a fifth round pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2012 draft. He's been a player that's rotated between defensive tackle and defensive end throughout his career; it's safe to assume he'll pick up the same role in Atlanta. Crawford isn't a game changer by any stretch, but it's helpful to have defensive line depth that are actually full time defensive linemen. We still love you, Ben Garland.
The Falcons like to use slants and gap exchanges up front to try and give athletic defensive linemen an advantage over offensive linemen. This was the one area of Crawford's tape that stood out the most.
Crawford is playing three technique on the outside shoulder the left guard. The defensive line is pinching on both sides of the line of scrimmage. That means everyone is slanting towards the ball. Philadelphia actually had a nice playcall to counter it with the outside zone, but Crawford made a fantastic play that showed off his athleticism. After he takes his initial slant steps he's able to easily redirect and bring down the ballcarrier.
Crawford is never going to be a player that dominates offensive tackles for an entire game, but he gives tight ends fits at times. Crawford is the left defensive end here. When the right tackle blocks down towards the three technique, Crawford knows he has to step hard inside to make his way towards the running back.
On his way towards the C-gap he drives the tight end into the backfield then does a nice job of disengaging and getting involved with the tackle for loss.
When he's matched up against tight ends in pass protection he's usually too athletic for them to handle him. Look at how he's able to bend and sink his hips once he turns the corner around Dennis Pitta. For a 275-280 pound player that's fairly impressive. It's unlikely that he turns into the player that will do this consistently to offensive linemen, but maybe the light comes on after working with Dan Quinn and Bryant Young.
As Dan Quinn continues his quest to build the grittiest football team of all time he's going to need players willing to put in that extra effort to get to the ball. This a redeeming trait for Crawford. He may not be the most polished defensive lineman, but every snap he's on the field he's going to go full speed.
It sounds cheesy, but if he loafs near the line of scrimmage on this play he'll leave his safety one on one with a 240 pound running back. After playing his initial fit as the left defensive end he hustles down the field to take down the running back.
Crawford is a solid depth signing for the Falcons. He's not going to be a huge difference maker, but an athletic player that hustles is always needed in the rotation. He fits Dan Quinn's vision of versatile, athletic players on the defensive line. It will be interesting to see if they hold off until the draft to add more defensive linemen or if they sign a guy like Dontari Poe over the weekend.