Yesterday, we looked at the way the Falcons have elected to build their offense positionally in the Dan Quinn era in their initial 53 man rosters, in the hopes that it could tell us something about the way they’ll do so this year. It’s a little dicier on that side of the ball, given that Dirk Koetter is a fresh offensive coordinator and Quinn’s involvement with the offense is unclear, but on defense it ought to help us figure some things out.
So let’s take a closer look and see what trends we can identify on defense.
Falcons Defense-Building 2015-2018
The Falcons have constructed their defensive line in exactly the same way, position-wise, every single year under Dan Quinn. One of those defensive tackles tends to be able to play end, whether it be Tyson Jackson or Courtney Upshaw, and the lines between positions do blur a bit because of how DQ and company scheme with these players. But they’ve kept nine defensive linemen out of the gate every single season under Quinn, and that can be broken down at its most basic level to four ends and five tackles. There’s no real reason to think that’ll change this year, especially with the concentration of DTs on the roster.
Things have been far more unsettled at linebacker, where the team has tended to carry more when there are question marks about starters and/or the need for more special teamers. This year despite intriguing talent from guys like Jermaine Grace and Tre’ Crawford, they seem likely to go light because Ishmael and Riley are proven special teamers and their top three players (Debo, De’Vondre, and Oluokun) are terrific players.
The secondary has been fairly steady out of the gate in recent years. One suspects Quinn’s ideal number of safeties is four and ideal number of corners is six—again, just based on trends and his enduring love of corners—but he may not be able to exactly hit that number this year with some lingering questions about how close to 100% Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen will be in 2019. This team also has at least three interesting reserve safeties at the moment.
With these trends in mind, and with Neal and Allen returning from injury, here’s a tentative stab at the 25 guys on defense when the Falcons announce their 53 man roster. They have had 25 players on defense post-cuts now for the last two seasons, and I’d expect that to continue this year.
DE: Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, Adrian Clayborn, John Cominsky
DT: Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison, Deadrin Senat, Ra’Shede Hageman
LB: Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Foye Oluokun, Duke Riley, Kemal Ishmael
CB: Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Damontae Kazee, Kendall Sheffield, Jordan Miller, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
S: Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Chris Cooper, J.J. Wilcox, Sharrod Neasman