Now Atlanta is a few weeks before the new year of the league and is steadily adding to the list. The 2022 NFL Draft will significantly change the team’s prospects if they bring a few difference makers – heck, even just great depth will be welcomed – but the Falcons have taken real steps to form their depth chart through a free agency over the past month.
In light of this – and after the signing of Rushan Evans yesterday – it seemed like a good time to take a deep breath, step back and see where the depth table is on both sides of the ball in less than a month to go to the draft. None of the following is official or close to the final – after all, the Falcons still have more than 20 places on the list – but will give us an idea of where the team should add and where they could add a solid start to the defense options they desperately need. help.
Tomorrow we will go on the attack, and today we will talk about defense.
Line of defense
DL Grady Jarrett
DL Anthony Rush
DL Ta’Quon Graham
DL Marlon Davidson
DL Nick Thurman
Assuming the Falcons don’t trade Jarrett – and every report shows they’re trying to extend it – he will remain in that line for the eighth season in a row. He’s one of the best in business and the only star in the Falcons ’seven, so hopefully Jarrett is back and wreaking havoc.
Graham quietly played the third-largest result in the defensive line a year ago, and I think he’s both a player who likes coaching staff and a player who has the talent to be a starting lineup. If Atlanta doesn’t add an obvious update, go ahead and put him in the starting lineup and I like his chances of making a small leap in his second season.
Atlanta will want to add more options to this defensive line, but Rush needs to be bet on something like 30-40% defensive jerks when a team fights its nose. He has been solid in that role since he joined last year, and the Falcons will feel better if they have a player they feel comfortable with, after the start of the 2021 season they broke up with Tyler Davison and bike options.
The depth here is small, but it will not last if the draft is not far off. I still hope that Davidson will be a force to be reckoned with, and if he is at least a high reserve, this defense will be of great benefit. Thurman will be in the mix in place this summer, especially if the team doesn’t add more talent.
OLB Lorenzo Carter
OLB Adetokunbo Ogundeji
OLB James Waters
OLB John Cominski
OLB Quinton Bell
OLB Jordan Brailford
Atlanta has an urgent need for talent that will change the game, but if they can add a player with that look, this group will actually become quite interesting.
At the end of the 2021 season, Carter has collected all his bags, but he is only 26 years old, he remains a great athlete and will join the defense, where he will not be short of shooting or opportunities. Agundeji is a player that the Falcons have been talking about since last summer, and I hope that next year he will be able to increase his production as a passenger. Carter, Agundeji and a newcomer to the early round are the beginning of something, and the Falcons will have a place to hold Carter when he breaks out in 2022.
Waters has come in and played pretty well in his 2021 abilities, and that’s a great depth for this group. Once the team has actually conserved Cominski, returning him to an outside linebacker, he will launch a spring fixed in position. He is still only 26 years old, and hopefully he will at least be able to contribute 15-20 shots per game. Bell and Brailleford will fight for one place or train in team slots, depending on whether the Falcons will be added to the group.
ILB Dayon Jones
ILB Rashaan Evans
ILB Mykal Walker
ILB Dorian Etheridge
ILB Rashad Smith
I’m really not sure how this will happen as I totally expect Evans to start, but I’m not 100% sure Jones will be on that list before the season starts. Walker and Evans provide this team with a bigger, more physical set of starts, which seems to be the direction in which the team is moving. We need to see how this happens after the draft.
When Jones is here, the Falcons mix newly signed Evans with Deboe’s range and speed, and Walker will be the team’s main reserve in that position. The hope in this scenario will be that Jones will bounce back in a big way and return to his heyday of prosperity, giving Atlanta an effective option to cover the hard ends and run off the field. Evans would put up big, solid hits, and the last two years have been at least half-capable in coverage.
If the Falcons instead add Walker to the starting lineup – or if they mix him up with Evans, who runs a bit like a pass – they’ll pick a man who’s been aggressive and pretty solid in coverage in their limited chances the last two seasons. If the team does not add another player, Etheridge will complement the group as a special team and a deep reserve.
The uncertainty around Jones creates uncertainty around the whole position, but obviously when he stays and bounces back a bit, it looks like a very solid band. If they move it, it will be important to add more talent to the group behind Evans and Walker.
CB AJ Terrell
CB Casey Hayward
CB Isaiah Oliver
CB Darren Hall
CB DeAundre Alford
CB Avery Williams
CB Kendall Sheffield
CB Lafayette Pitts
CB Cornell Armstrong
CB Corey Ballentine
It’s the best positional band on the list, and I’m not sure it’s particularly close.
If Terrell manages to maintain momentum after a breakthrough in the season, he is one of the best corner defenders in football and a terrific starting point. Hayward is getting older, but still has a great coverage and a solid second corner back against Terrell. Oliver looked great before last year’s injury, and if he’s healthy, should come back as a solid nickel for Dean Pisa and that defense.
That is, on paper, a really strong group of beginners. Depth is also qualitative: Hall performed quite well in his disability in 2021, Elfford looks very intriguing when jumping out of the CFL, and Williams is still young and capable of much more than he showed in his disability in 2021. Sheffield didn’t go out much on the field, but still has solid size and excellent speed, while Pitts, Armstrong and Ballentine can reliably compete for multiple training places to provide extra depth of challenge.
It is always foolish to think that everything will go according to plan, but on paper it is a very good and deep group. I’m excited to see it shake up this summer.
S Richie Grant
S Eric Harris
S Dean Marlowe
S / CB Teez Tabor
With Luther Kirk
The possibility that Kyle Hamilton will be selected at number 8 seems legitimate, so it’s hard to pinpoint any of these players. While there is considerable uncertainty with who will start, even if they keep the group intact, the Falcons have done a good job of giving themselves options within budget.
I guess Grant is coming into the starting lineup. The second round pick of 2021 last season didn’t get much out of the defense, but the Falcons went and got it because they liked his playing potential and he had a year to learn and adapt to the NFL game. It would have been upset if he hadn’t gotten his first grand role in 2022, and I still hope he stands out with that opportunity.
Hawkins needs to be outlined slightly. At the beginning of the year he did run, but did not play until the end, and it was not clear whether it was just an advantage of the coaching staff or a consequence of injury. He remains a physical playmaker in the making, though has made some very notable mistakes along the way, and I’d like to see how he gets a real opportunity to start throughout the season for the year when the Falcons have to be ready to throw things at wall and see if they stick.
Harris started most of the games a year ago until he was injured, and when he gets an important role, he has a very strong reserve that can confidently join and put point starts when someone is injured or staggered, as well as the Falcons player as under his leadership. Marlowe started nine games for the Lions a year ago and was spectacular – you don’t want him to be a target in the lighting, but he’s a reliable pick-up – but brings considerable experience and solid skills to the table as a backup. Tabar completes versatility – he played both in safety and in goal – and of particular value to the teams.
Pee loves to mix not just the two security measures, so you’ll see Harris and Marlowe even if they don’t start. It won’t be a great band if Grant and / or Hawkins don’t flourish (or, of course, if they add someone like Hamilton), but it’s solid and pretty deep.
Obviously, the Falcons have not finished strengthening this defense – they still have more than 20 places on the list, and the draft has not yet taken place – but you see that this side of the ball is beginning to take shape. What positions do you hope the team will add in the coming weeks?