FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Jack Crawford's first season with the Falcons was cut short after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 4. Now, as he gets ready for Year 2, he's healthy and is ready to make a name for himself in Atlanta.
"I think I'm a better player than I was before," Crawford said. "I still have a lot to clean up personally in my game but just in terms of some of my weaknesses from the past year, I feel like I've strengthened."
So which part of Crawford's game does he feel he's improved?
"Formation recognition," he said.
This allows Crawford to be more confident before the snap which is more important for a defensive lineman than one might think.
"If you know what you might get, you have a better opportunity to make a play as opposed to If you're in the middle guessing, you're only going to be right 20 percent of the time because you can get so much," Crawford said.
Crawford is expected to play a big role along the Falcons' defensive line. He has the versatility to play on the inside and outside – a quality Falcons coach Dan Quinn likes in his linemen.
The Falcons' defensive line looks a little different this year as the unit added some new pieces with players like free-agent signee Terrell McClain and rookie fourth-round pick Deadrin Senat after the departures of defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Adrian Clayborn in free agency.
"One thing that Jack and (Terrell McClain) and Senat all provide is how hard they play," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "When you look across the board and you put their tape on you're going to say, man, this is a group that really puts out. I like that part of the group so far. As far as getting into the game plan and the flow of things, we haven't done a lot yet. I think that will grow as the season grows."
Crawford said the success of this group will come down to how consistent they are week in and week out.
"I think we're developing," Crawford said of the Falcons' defensive line. "I think we have some ways to go before we can be where we want to be. At times we've shown some flashes to be at an elite level, but we just need to be more consistent."