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5 best Falcons defensive players of 2018: Jack Crawford is No. 3

A role player who shined bright.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With the 2018 season mercifully in the rearview mirror, we can look back and reminisce as we wait for the NFL season to greet us once again in September.

For the few past few weeks I’ve been counting down the five best offensive players of 2018 for the Falcons. This new series will do the same thing, but focus on what was the weaker side of the ball for the Birds this year — the defense.

Devastating injuries to start the campaign weren’t overcome, as Atlanta fielded a putrid 28th-ranked defense in the NFL. Still, even throughout the struggles, contributors stuck out from the crowd, and at least gave Atlanta a chance on the defensive end.

This will be a weekly countdown of the Falcons’ five best defensive players of 2018, going in order from fifth to first. You can find No. 5 here and No. 4 here.

Here is the third-best defensive player for the Atlanta Falcons from this past season

3) Jack Crawford

Jack Crawford was mostly an afterthought heading into this past season — he was a low key free agent signing in the 2017 offseason, and then missed most of the 2017 campaign due to injury.

In 2018, however, Jack Crawford stepped up in Dan Quinn’s defensive line rotation, and he was one of the big-time pleasant surprises of the year.

Crawford was second on the team with 7.0 sacks — just one behind Takk McKinley for the team lead. He was also fourth on the team with 22 QB hurries.

Crawford tallied 15 run stops in addition to the sacks to showcase a complete package of contributions along the defensive line. The Penn State alum had the second-highest run defense grade among all of Atlanta’s defenders who played at least 400 snaps, according to PFF.

Overall tackling seemed to have been the only thing holding Crawford back in 2018, as his dreadful 29.6 tackling grade was the third-lowest on the team (hello Brooks Reed and Vic Beasley), with seven missed tackles against only 14 total tackles being the reason for such a low mark.

The good far outweighed the bad in Crawford’s season, however, as everything other than tackling (and his nine coverage snaps) was completely solid. Crawford’s PFF grade of 71.4 was the third-highest on the defense out of players who played at least 400 snaps.

Jack Crawford is looking like a steal at the $3.7 million cap hit he’s registering for the 2019 season, and he’s someone the Falcons should very much consider extending when the time comes. Dan Quinn is a firm believer in a defensive line rotation, and Crawford has proven that he can be a key contributor within said rotation.