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The Falcons will lean heavily on Takkarist McKinley in 2018

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The second year defensive end is expected to be a star, and the Falcons will count on him to be one.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of what the Falcons do the rest of the offseason, one thing has become abundantly clear in the last few weeks: Takkarist McKinley is going to start, and he’s going to be expected to play a lot and play very well.

This is not an unreasonable thing for the Falcons to expect from their 2017 first round pick, who piled up six sacks in a year where he often played far fewer snaps than we expected. Atlanta had the luxury of a great rotation on their defensive line, which allowed them to play guys like Takk, Derrick Shelby, and Brooks Reed 20 or fewer snaps. Not every team has the depth to rotate like that.

At the moment, neither do the Falcons, but just about everybody has pointed out that Takk is going to be expected to soak up a lot of snaps vacated by Shelby and Adrian Clayborn, who signed with the Patriots yesterday. To wit:

The reason this is not an unreasonable expectation is because Takk is both very good already and such a strong, advanced defensive end after one season that he can very clearly play well against the run and rush the passer. That means you don’t necessarily need a Clayborn and Shelby to rotate at end depending on the situation, because in an ideal world, Takk can and will do both. Add in Brooks Reed and a couple of rotational guys to give Takk and Vic Beasley breathers at end and you’re really not in bad shape at all, assuming Takk is up to the task.

The good news is that I think that’s a safe assumption.