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Falcons DT Jack Crawford says DL is ‘definitely ahead of where we were at this point last year’

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All of a sudden, the Falcons are loaded on the defensive line.

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The Falcons entered the 2019 offseason knowing their biggest weakness was the defensive line. Head coach Dan Quinn decided to take over the defensive coordinator duties, in addition to his responsibilities as the head coach. In 2018, the Falcons defensive line finished 22nd in the league with only 37 sacks.

Following Thursday’s preseason win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, defensive tackle Jack Crawford revealed his thoughts about the unit entering this season.

“Yeah, I think we have a lot of talent. I think it showed today just by the players we have on the field and how well the defensive line did today, and just how active they were,” Crawford said. “We are definitely ahead of where we were at this point last year in terms of being smart, and understanding the opposition’s play calling and stuff like that.”

It’s safe to say the team is ahead of where they were last season in part because Grady Jarrett has another year of experience under his belt, Jack Crawford is coming off a career-best season and the team signed free agent Tyeler Davison, who was a key rotational player for the New Orleans Saints.

“I’m excited about it, but excitement isn’t worth that much in the league — it’s about what you do,” Crawford said. “We still have a lot of work to do and now everything counts, so we just have to build off of it.”

Although Crawford didn’t play in the Week 4 preseason game, it was evident that he was supportive of the guys who did suit up. The Falcons defensive line this year, as Crawford mentioned, seems far more composed and should be one of the better fronts the team has had in a long time. They only held opposing offenses under 100 yards five times in 2018 and allowed two 200-yard rushing games. To conclude the season, the Falcons finished 25th in rushing yards allowed and 21st in touchdowns.

Fans have a lot to be optimistic about in 2019. The team not only signed free agent Allen Bailey this offseason, but brought back former Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn previously recorded 17 sacks over three seasons in Atlanta before moving on to the New England Patriots in 2018. He was a valuable asset along the defensive line, and a valuable rotational pass rusher — such as when he dominated the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, recording a franchise record six sacks in that single game.

The Falcons kick off the 2019 season on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, a team that allowed their quarterback Kirk Cousins to be sacked 40 times last season. With safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal returning to full health, let’s hope the Falcons defense stands out in a good way on Sunday.