Crawford Can Help Pass Rush:By signing Jack Crawford to a three-year contract, the Falcons added some intriguing depth to their defensive line rotation, which includes a promising mix of young home-grown talent and free agent acquisitions. Known for his relentless work ethic, Crawford is capable of lining up at multiple positions and should help Atlanta's pass rush. His 3.5 sacks would have been the third-most on the 2016 Falcons.
"Crawford is strong and versatile and has the ability to play across the defensive line," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Thursday. "We like his skill set and the physicality in which he plays the game with, and we feel he will add to our defensive line group."
Upshaw Back After Encouraging Finish:After converting from linebacker to defensive line, Courtney Upshaw became an impactful member of the defense. He notched 23 sacks, three quarterback hits, one sack, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and one forced fumble during the regular season; he also earned a sack in Super Bowl LI.
Like Crawford and a number of other players, Upshaw can be utilized at various spots across the defensive front, giving head coach Dan Quinn a lot of flexibility in that area.
"He's a very willing guy," Quinn said about Upshaw in January. "He knew he could handle a couple of different roles. The biggest shift was, Could he have the versatility to play defensive tackle? And because of his strength, he was able to."
Toilolo Looking to Build on Career Year:Tight end was one of the deepest position groups on the 2016 Falcons, and by re-signing Levine Toilolo, the team ensured they'll have depth at that spot next season. The 6-foot-8, 265-pounder and Austin Hooper, among others, will complement Atlanta's gifted wide receiving corps in the passing game.
Last year, in addition to chipping in on special teams and progressing as a blocker, Toilolo reeled in 13 receptions for 264 yards – a 20.3-yard average – and a pair of touchdowns. Four of his catches went for 30-plus yards.
"Levine Toilolo is such a reliable guy for us and is somebody that we count on in a big way on the line of scrimmage and in motion," Quinn said. "He's been a real factor."
Reynolds Returns to Help LBs, ST:Atlanta also brought back linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, who, in addition to being an emotional leader, has been an important part of the Falcons' kick and punt coverages. Atlanta had the fifth-best special teams unit in 2016, according to PFF, and Reynolds' contributions on and off the field were a big part of that success. He played in all 19 games during his first campaign in Atlanta and made 30 tackles.
"I appreciate his leadership in the meetings with the players, on the field during practice and on the sideline with the guys during the game," special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said just before SBLI. "A total leader for us. Great effort. Great grit."
Schaub to Provide More Security at QB:By signing on for two more seasons, Matt Schaub will continue to give the Falcons a reliable backup behind Matt Ryan. Originally drafted by Atlanta in 2004, the two-time Pro Bowler has a comprehensive understanding of the playbook and the full trust of team brass.
"We know the value of having an experienced backup at quarterback," Dimitroff said, "and Ryan and Schaub work well together so it was important to keep that tandem together."