Jack Crawford is, in many ways, the most prescient signing of the entire offseason. He’s a player the Falcons liked a lot more at defensive tackle than defensive end, and he’ll step into a significant role for a team that just cut Ra’Shede Hageman after multiple investigations into a 2016 domestic violence arrest concluded. It helps that he looked good in preseason, and he’s virtually assured to be a useful player for Atlanta in 2017.
In many ways, though, the likeliest beneficiary of the Hageman release isn’t Crawford at all. It’s Courtney Upshaw.
That’s straight from Dan Quinn, who noted to reporters that the veteran defensive end/defensive tackle/extra-large linebacker is likely to get significant looks inside in nickel packages. Given that the Falcons run a lot of nickel, it’s probably safe to say we’ll see plenty of Upshaw.
Dan Quinn said look for Courtney Upshaw the nickel package on the interior with Hageman out of mix— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) September 4, 2017
This is a fine use of Upshaw, a strong run-stopper who had an excellent second half of the season, which he carried over into the playoffs. He even had some impressive runs as a pass rusher, culminating in a sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl that is highlighted here in German, for some reason. With Crawford also in the mix, the Falcons can probably get Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby more time at end, where they’re more likely to be effective, and still boast a pretty good rotation on the interior.
For Upshaw, it’s a chance to prove he deserves a long-term deal, something he couldn’t get from Atlanta this offseason. Expect him to get at least 20 snaps per game backing up Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett, and hopefully we’ll see the same kind of production he offered last season.