With the Atlanta Falcons entering into the summer portion of the offseason, the team, by and large, has its 2019 roster complete.
People could come and go here and there, but for the most part, the ship has its crew. Will it set sail with success or defeat? We here at The Falcoholic are breaking down the position groups to see how they shape up and where the strengths and weaknesses lie.
Our review shifts to the defensive line, particularly those fellows on the edge who are tasked with affecting the quarterback and slowing down the run. These are the Falcons’ defensive ends.
The team has some firm question marks with the starting defensive ends.
Vic Beasley, the team’s highest-paid and most notable pass rusher. has underwhelmed in the last two seasons after his 2016 lightning strike season when he led the league in sacks. Beasley’s future with the team will largely depend on this season, and it’s imperative he show major leaps in production and consistency.
He’s got the potential to be a sound long-term pass rusher in the NFL, and the team certainly has invested in that possibility. We’ll see if he gets there.
Takkarist McKinley also enters a pivotal campaign. His rookie year and the start of his second season signaled a major arrival, but he faded down the stretch in impact last fall. Perhaps that’s due to the team’s general decline, but McKinley should be on the rebound this fall.
His motor, tenacity and power can’t be taught, so hopefully his maturation as a player will allow him to see it all click for his and the Falcons’ favor. They need him to be at his best.
Adrian Clayborn will see starting snaps, and he’s the most comfortable we feel with this group out the gate. Hypothetically, this is the same pass rushing trio that led the team in 2017 when it, if you’ll recall, got the reputation of being some sort of assembly of momentary sack masters. Clayborn is a proven presence in this system, so his return is most welcomed.
Fourth-round draft pick John Cominsky is a wild card, a player laden with athleticism and insane tape at the D-II level. Will he be more of a guy to be molded for the future or could he impact the team immediately? We’ll have to see how he looks in preseason.
Chris Odom, a 2017 preseason favorite who didn’t make the final cut, had some promising time in the AAF before returning to the team in April. Perhaps he comes into his own and sticks around in Atlanta this time? He’s another guy to watch in the preseason, though his spot on the roster isn’t confirmed like Cominsky’s should be.
Guys like Durrant Miles and Austin Larkin will compete for a spot, though Odom should be the favorite to stick around as a fifth edge right now unless the team signs a veteran.
To be honest, this group shoulders a lot of uncertainty. We have no idea how Beasley or McKinley will do, though new scheme coaching from Dan Quinn and a renewed effort to improve both players this offseason could prove successful. Bringing Clayborn back gives us much more comfort.
The team could opt to sign a guy like Allen Bailey to bolster the group, or another veteran free agent like William Hayes or Derrick Morgan. Maybe the younger guys will step up and impress. Maybe they’ll trade for help.
The only certain thing is we have no idea how this is going to go. It’s more than fair to be nervous, but it’s also more than fair to be optimistic the moves made and trust given will pay off for the team.