Courtney Upshaw also agreed to terms to remain with Falcons, source said.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2017
Upshaw, 27, started his career as a 2nd round pick for the Ravens, playing the linebacker position in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, but not living up to his high-round draft status while in Baltimore. The Falcons signed him last March to a one-year contract with the goal of having Upshaw contribute to the defense as a sub defender.
Upshaw got off to a slow start for the Falcons in 2016, as he was a healthy scratch in three of the Falcons’ first six games. However, as the season wore on, he was pressed into duty, in particular after injuries struck fellow defensive lineman Derrick Shelby and Adrian Clayborn. Given playing time, Upshaw showed improvement while flashing good hand usage.
Upshaw wound up starting five games during the second half of the season, getting one sack and one forced fumble in the regular season, and one sack against the Patriots in the Super Bowl (celebration pictured above).
How does Upshaw fit on the Falcons’ 2017 roster?
Upshaw proved to be an important piece in the Falcons’ defensive line rotation in 2016, playing approximately 28% of the defensive snaps, and he’ll likely continue to contribute to Dan Quinn’s heavy rotation again in 2017. Look for him to pick up a good number of snaps inside and outside, depending on the down-and-distance. We’ll see if new defensive line coach Bryant Young can help Upshaw reach his full potential.
Depth chart implications
With Bryant Young taking over to provide fresh eyes and views as Falcons defensive line coach, there may be an opportunity here for Upshaw to impress and seize a starting job with a strong training camp. X-factors include how Derrick Shelby responds from his torn Achilles and whether Adrian Clayborn continues to be dogged by injuries in 2017. Additionally, we don’t yet know which other free agents, draft picks, or other rookies the Falcons may decide to add along the defensive line going into next season.
But if one were to project a depth chart based on the roster as it stands today, the Falcons’ starting defensive line would likely consist of Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Grady Jarrett, and Ra’Shede Hageman, while Upshaw, Shelby, and Joe Vellano would slot in as rotational depth. Brooks Reed would also likely be in for a healthy helping of plays at the defensive end spot and Ben Garland could again figure into the defensive tackle rotation. Because of the aforementioned heavy rotation that Coach Quinn deploys, the top defensive line backups tend to play a lot of snaps. So be ready to see Upshaw on the field plenty in 2017.
Congrats to Courtney Upshaw for re-signing with the Falcons. We’re thrilled to welcome him back for another season!