FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – While much of the talk this offseason outside the walls of the Falcons' team facility surrounds the state of Atlanta's defensive line after the departures of defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Jack Crawford would like to remind everyone that the team was able to retain majority of the talent they possessed in 2017.
And he's right.
Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley are heading into their fourth season in Atlanta's defense, Takkarist McKinley now has one year under his belt, Brooks Reed returns and the Falcons re-signed Derrick Shelby this offseason. Crawford will be back fully healthy and is eager to show what he can do after missing most of the season with a season-ending triceps injury. The unit also added Deadrin Senat, the Falcons' third-round draft pick out of South Florida.
The Falcons also signed 6-foot-2, 302-pound defensive tackle Terrell McClain this offseason. In his NFL career, McClain has played in 74 games with 29 starts after being selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has recorded 109 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
They have the talent and experience; it's now about putting it all together.
"To be honest, I think we were stacked last year, I thought we had a lot of talent," Crawford said. "And for the most part, we retained a lot of that talent. We have the experience to be elite, it's just about bringing it together now. We have the chemistry, it's just about learning good habits and looking at where we can get better from last year."
When Crawford went down in Week 4, it was tough for the Falcons' defensive line because of the initial the initial quickness he adds to the unit. His versatility also allows him to fill multiple roles. Prior to his injury, Crawford showed the type of impact he can be.
Crawford feels like his style aligns exactly with what the Falcons want to do on defense.
"I think I fit in with the work ethic of the team and the defense," Crawford said. "The players they have here, they work hard. When it's time to go, they get after it and play with speed and that's one of the things I take pride in is being a hard worker on the field. Also just bringing a dynamic of rushing the passer and being able to be a bigger guy on the inside but bring more speed."
More important than anything, Crawford feels as good as he's ever felt from a health standpoint so he can solely focus on his responsibilities on the football field.