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De'Vondre Campbell's size and speed gives Falcons' defense plenty of options

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dan Quinn is all about finding new ways to feature his players to bring out their strengths, even if it means changing their role. The versatility, after all, allows the Falcons to move players around and, in theory, put them in favorable matchups.

Look no further than what he did with Vic Beasley last season as an example. Quinn moved Beasley to SAM linebacker and his sack total went from four in 2015 to a league-leading 15.5 in 2016.

Next in line is De'Vondre Campbell.

After a rookie season where he was featured at the weakside linebacker spot, Campbell has been seeing time at strongside linebacker.

Because of Campbell's size and speed – he's 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds – he's able to match up against opponents' tight ends and help in coverage. That's a big reason why the Falcons were attracted to him in the pre-draft process.

Campbell's biggest opportunity to be a pass-rusher this year could come when the Falcons are in their base package – that's when he's lined up on the strongside. And that's something Quinn believes Campbell can add to his game.

"First thing was the physical profile that we knew he could handle the job," Quinn said. "He's got length. He's got strength. We thought we could add some pass rushing with him as well."

The move was only possible with the additions of rookie Duke Riley and Kemal Ishmael to the linebacker room. Quinn cites Campbell's added role as one of the reasons the Falcons moved Ishmael from safety to linebacker this offseason.

When the Falcons are in their nickel defense, the team will still rely on Campbell to be a factor at the WILL position. Atlanta will face a number of talented tight ends this year, so his play will be vital for the Falcons' defense to be successful this year.

And fortunately for Campbell, he gets to go up against tight end Austin Hooper every day at practice, helping him prepare for what he'll see on game days.

"He's got the ability because of his size to match up on tight ends and man to man," Quinn said. "We love the battle that he and Austin Hooper do almost on a regular basis. Hopefully for about the next 10 years, everyday these guys go after one another. Hooper wins, then Campbell comes back to win and that's the type of iron sharpening iron that we like to see."

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