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Falcons training camp battles: The fourth DT spot

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Newcomer Tyeler Davison has Michael Bennett, Justin Zimmer and Ra’Shede Hageman looking over his shoulder.

Heading into the 2019 offseason many people, including myself, saw the Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle position as the biggest need. Even with Grady Jarrett and the great season Jack Crawford had in 2018, the trench position needed a little more added to it. In free agency, the team added Tyeler Davison who spent four seasons with the New Orleans Saints and brought back Ra’Shede Hageman, who was released by the team in 2017 following a domestic-violence incident. Also returning are Deadrin Senat, Justin Zimmer and Michael Bennett. It’s safe to say Grady, Jack and Deadrin are all safe.

The Challengers

Tyeler Davison, 26, entering his 1st season with Atlanta

The Falcons signed Davison to a one-year deal in April, making him their biggest addition at defensive tackle. A 5th round pick in the 2015 draft, Davison started next to Sheldon Rankins last season and recorded two sacks, a career-best. Davison is 6’2, 309lbs and provides a powerful punch in the middle of the defensive line. The move was a win-win for Atlanta, as you not only add some grit and strength in the trenches, but you weaken a division rival in the process.

Michael Bennett, 26, entering 2nd season with Atlanta

After a Grady Jarrett injury led to his signing in the middle of last season, Bennett was signed by the Falcons to a reserve/futures contract following the conclusion of the regular season. He only appeared in two games last season, which came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers, recording a total of four tackles. Although he sustained a hand injury in mid-June, it appears it’s nothing major.

Justin Zimmer, 26 entering 2nd season with Atlanta

Zimmer is a promising young prospect who is clearly liked by the staff, but is that enough to make the final roster? Probably not. Even though he started the 2018 season on the Falcons roster, I think that’s more of a notion of the lack of depth the team had in 2018.

Ra’Shede Hageman, 28 entering 4th season with Atlanta

Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2019 offseason was the Falcons bringing back Hageman. The team apparently sees maturity and believes he has the potential to contribute on the defensive line. It’s possible that he could eventually sneak onto the roster if he has a strong training camp and preseason, but it’s worth noting that he’s suspended for the first two regular season games. The likely scenario for Hageman is the team brings him back in week 3, assuming the need is still there, and releases a depth guy at another position.

And the winner is…

Tyeler Davison. He is the most likely to contribute right away and has shown to be what the Falcons need. When you combine him with Jarrett, Crawford and Senat all of the sudden the Falcons have a solid defensive line. It may not be the flashiest in the league, but there is definitely a lot of strength on it, and we know how Dan Quinn loves him some grit.