FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – One of the position groups that will look a little different in the 2018 season is the Falcons' defensive line unit.
The Falcons do return several key players in Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley Jr., Takkarist McKinley and Jack Crawford, but the group has also added a few new faces. Atlanta drafted defensive tackle Deadrin Senat out of South Florida in the third round and added veteran defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After the departures of Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn in free agency, the Falcons began filling their spots.
Heading into the offseason, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Falcons was regarding the depth at defensive line. With the new additions and the talent Atlanta has returning in this group, defensive line coach Bryant Young believes the Falcons will pick right back up where they left off in 2017.
"I think the guys we have in the room; I think we are in good shape," Young said Wednesday. "I think we'll be right where we were last year in terms of doing what we need to do up front."
The unit made significant strides last season in Young's first season as defensive line coach. Atlanta finished the season ranked ninth against the run, allowing 104.1 yards per game and recorded 39 sacks, five more than the 2016 season.
Beasley's return to defensive end full time could also help the group immensely, especially because he'll be freed up to take on more snaps when the Falcons are in their nickel package. After a season in which he led the league in sacks with 15.5 in 2016, Beasley added more to his plate in 2017 when he was also asked to play SAM linebacker due to injury circumstances and his sack numbers dropped to five.
The hope is that with his sole focus devoted to rushing the passer, Beasley will be primed for another big year.
"The sky is the limit for him," Young said of Beasley. "He's a very talented football player and I think him coming back in being in his fourth year now, I think his expectations are very high. We expect a lot of each other and I think it's going to be a big year for him in that way."