Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is defensive tackle. This unit has undergone few changes this offseason, with Pro Bowl veteran Grady Jarrett, ascending nose tackle Anthony Rush, former second-rounder Marlon Davidson, and 2021 fifth-rounder Ta’Quon Graham all returning for 2022.
Next up is former 2019 UDFA Anthony Rush.
DT Anthony Rush
Age: 25 (26 during 2022 season)
Contract: $1.25M cap hit in 2022, free agent in 2023
Career Production: 26 games played, 6 games started | 33 total tackles (17 solo), 4.0 TFL, 0.03% MTR | 0.5 sacks, 3 total pressures, 1 FF
2021 Production: 12 games played, 6 games started | 19 total tackles (10 solo), 1.0 TFL, 5.0% MTR | 2 total pressures, 1 FF
The first year of a transition to a new defensive scheme is almost always rough, and 2021 for the Falcons was no different. Armed with virtually no cap space and a litany of expensive contracts, Atlanta was forced to keep a number of veterans that weren’t great fits in the 3-4. One of those was Tyeler Davison—a prototypical 4-3 nose tackle who was simply way too undersized to play the same role in a 3-4. And it showed, as Davison struggled mightily to handle double-teams and Atlanta’s run defense suffered.
Eventually, Atlanta turned to former UDFA Anthony Rush, who joined the team midseason after a stint with the Titans. The results were immediately a lot better for Rush, who is a truly massive man at a listed 6’5, 350. As expected for a nose tackle, Rush didn’t post eye-popping production in his six starts. But he did flash some very dominant reps, pushing back the offensive line and setting up his teammates for success against the run.
After a lot of conjecture about whether or not Atlanta would draft or sign a nose tackle, his only competition after the dust cleared came in the form of UDFA Timmy Horne. While Rush isn’t necessarily guaranteed to win the job, I’d say he’s the heavy favorite due to his NFL experience, superior size, and impressive stint to close out the 2021 season. Rush has a real shot to earn a long-term role with the Falcons as their nose tackle of the future if he can turn those flashes into consistent play in 2022.
Projection: Anthony Rush is the clear favorite to win the starting nose tackle job in 2022. Rush hasn’t played a ton, but impressed in his six starts for the Falcons last season. If he plays well this year, Rush has a legitimate shot to earn a long-term spot in the middle of the defensive line.