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What is the Falcons’ biggest need: Defensive tackle or defensive end?

And don’t say both.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s little doubt that the Falcons need to address the defensive line in the draft. While some may argue that offensive tackle and corner could be taken early, the majority of pundits and fans agree the team needs to improve the defensive line first and foremost.

The question, though, is which of the two key positions is more important? We’ve seen the team linked to guys like Ed Oliver and Christian Wilkins and even Dexter Lawrence. Yet, it seems like there’s also a big need at defensive end, where a player like Brian Burns or Montez Sweat could make a lot of sense.

Let’s take a look at how the Falcons look at each position.

Defensive Tackle

Right now, the Falcons have several players lined up to play defensive tackle in 2019. Grady Jarrett is a Pro Bowl-quality starter who will likely get an extension in the very near future. Next to him, though, there’s a big question mark. Last year’s third-round pick — Deadrin Senat — showed great promise, particularly as a run stopper. He also showed some ability to get to the QB, though that’s not likely a role the team sees him in for the long term.

Then there’s Jack Crawford, who was arguably one of the nicest surprises of the 2018 season. He wound up starting 11 games and netted six sacks on the season — the same number as Grady Jarrett. He may not be what the team has in mind for a long-term starter to pair with Grady, but he’s fantastic in his current role.

The depth at DT is rounded out with guys like Michael Bennett (no, not that one) and Justin Zimmer. Neither of these guys projects to be anything more than a rotational piece at best.

The team has some options here, but adding another top-tier DT would certainly not be a problem. Someone like Ed Oliver could give the Falcons a devastating 1-2 punch in the middle of the defensive line. However, you could also make the argument that the Falcons could simply address the depth of this position and be fine in 2019.

Defensive End

The Falcons currently have just three guys who will potentially line up at defensive end in 2019. Takkarist McKinley is going into his third year and is a definite starter for 2019. The team (and fans) are hoping he makes the third-year jump that many pass rushers do. On the opposite side, lightning rod Vic Beasley is back on his fifth-year option with most fans wishing he weren’t. Barring some sort of revelation in 2019, it seems very possible Vic is in his last year with the team. After them, Steven Means is the lone defensive end on the roster, though he did show some promise in limited snaps last year.

In a pinch, Jack Crawford could potentially slide over to play defensive end, though he seemed far more successful rushing from the interior. As it stands, the team has very little depth at the position after Bruce Irvin was allowed to walk and the team parted ways with Brooks Reed. Yet, with both Beasley and McKinley the likely starters in 2019, it would seem the team is banking on development with Quinn back at defensive coordinator. You could easily argue they should look to supplant Beasley this year, but right now, it looks like they’re in the need for depth as much as anything.

Final thoughts

With the Falcons having a dismal pass rush in 2018, it’s hard to argue against anyone who could offer pass rushing help in this draft class. Whether that’s from the interior or from the edge seems like splitting hairs at this point. Yet, there are legitimate questions about the future of each position and what the best use of our first-round pick will be.

Let us know which position you think is the bigger need in our poll below.

Poll

Bigger need: DE or DT?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Defensive End
    (639 votes)
  • 36%
    Defensive Tackle
    (372 votes)
1011 votes total Vote Now