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Falcons to watch: What kind of 2019 role can Deadrin Senat expect?

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Snaps and opportunities may be hard to come by, but Senat has the talent to excel.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For some players, talent isn’t the question, but opportunity is. We covered one such player in this series already when we talked about Russell Gage, who has wheels, quality size, and the hands to be an asset at receiver, but has four quality veterans in front of him. Today we’ll cover Deadrin Senat, who will be trying to carve out a real role in a defensive tackle rotation that might feature four veterans ahead of him.

What’s working for Senat?

Talent, relative youth, and contract status. Senat will turn 25 in July and is coming off a rookie season that saw him pile up 30 tackles, two tackles for loss, and three quarterbacks hits in 15 games, despite playing four fewer snaps than Terrell McClain and even inexplicably being made a gameday inactive once. Senat is the currently the sole defensive tackle on the roster with a long-term deal—he’s under contract through the 2021 season—and already showed flashes of great run-stopping ability and some pass rushing punch despite his limited opportunities to prove himself.

Grady Jarrett’s deal ought to get done, but with Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison, and Ra’Shede Hageman all on one year deals, the Falcons would be foolish not to continue to give Senat chances to shine with an expectation that he’ll be playing starter-level snaps in 2020, and they know that. Remember, Senat was a force of nature in college, putting up 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in the impressive senior season that got the Falcons to draft him in the third round in the first place, and there will be enough snaps even on this defensive line to let him seize those opportunities.

What’s working against Senat?

While the snaps should be there, the opportunity to really make an impact is still limited by the number of players here and Dan Quinn’s whims. It’s possible Senat’s light usage in his rookie season was dictated by conditioning or mistakes Quinn saw on film that the rest of us didn’t, but it’s an ominous sign for Senat’s short-term value and playing time that the Falcons jerked him around at times in his rookie season, added Tyeler Davison and Ra’Shede Hageman to a defensive tackle rotation that already had Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford, and Senat, and haven’t spent a ton of time talking him up early in the offseason. That’s not even mentioning John Cominsky, the new apple of DQ’s eye and a guy who is expected to stick at defensive tackle over the long haul.

Basically, Senat is going to have to work extremely hard to get snaps ahead of Crawford and Davison, and depending on the rotation that Quinn settles on, perhaps even Hageman and Cominsky. I love both his upside and his game right now, but his playing time remains a question mark.

What to expect in 2019

Senat will probably effectively be the third or fourth defensive tackle in “base” packages, with Jarrett, Davison, and potentially Hageman (and again, we’re not 100% sure Big Shede is making the roster, so bear that in mind) likely to out-snap him over the short term. If Senat can show improvement as a pass rusher over his rookie season—where he put some good games on tape, by the way—he has a chance to push to rotate in behind Jarrett and Crawford in the team’s nickel and pass-facing fronts. Much will depend on whether Cominsky pulls time at DT and Hageman gets a spot, but expect Senat to better his 370 2018 snaps and overall numbers, though probably not by much.

If all goes well, though, 2020 will be an arrival date for the big man.