FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – One of the Falcons' largest needs entering this offseason was on the interior of their defensive front, and with one week remaining until the draft, Atlanta has signed just one free agent defensive tackle.
Tyeler Davison has been a starter for the past three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, but just how much is the team relying on Davison to address some of its 2018 woes? As a reminder, the Falcons allowed 384.5 yards per game last season, the fifth-most of any team in the league. They surrendered the sixth-most passing yards per game and the eighth-most rushing yards per game.
Davison might not do much to help the Falcons' pass rush, which recorded 37 sacks last season, but coach Dan Quinn seems to like what he offers as a run defender.
"We were really impressed, through free agency, about his ability to play the run," Quinn said. "He's got really long arms for a guy who's not really tall, so he can get in, he can disengage … We thought if we could add him into that mix of guys it would be really impactful for us."
In the past three seasons with the Saints, Davison recorded 77 tackles, five tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two sacks. Pro Football Focus graded Davison's run defense in 2018 as a 75.7, which measures out to "above average" in the site's grade scale.
Of course, the Falcons could still choose to address the position in the draft. Falcons general manager told reporters on Thursday that this is a unique year for offensive and defensive line prospects. The defensive tackle class, alone, is worthy of distinction.
It's also worth looking at Davison through a different lens – one that can be applied to much of the Falcons' other free agent signings. Davison may have been signed to fill a very specific role and provide depth at a position of need.
Most of the free agents the Falcons have signed this offseason don't appear to have a clear path to a starting role. In fact, Davison may have among the clearer paths, but the team could still improve in that area through the draft.
Dimitroff hinted at this notion Thursday, saying that he feels good about where the team is heading into the draft, given the various roles they've managed to fill in free agency.
"I feel like we go into the draft in a really good place," Dimitroff said. "And we don't feel the same amount of pressure going into the draft having to get all of these depth areas taken care of. That's a good feeling going in as co-team builders."