A few moments on the practice field this week showed all the offseason talk about the Falcons getting bigger and more physical wasn't lip service. Returning players were bulked up and newly added ones were hard to miss. Two of the biggest were also two of the newest, free agent signees Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai.
There's no self-consciousness about their size with these guys. Jackson and Soliai lined up together on the defensive line during Wednesday's practices and along with Jonathan Babineaux, the trio packs on the pounds at the front of the defense.
The Falcons were back on the practice fields Wednesday morning for the second day of organized team activities.
"Those guys are big guys that are going to be able to anchor the defensive line," Smith said. "That's what we need to be able to do. We've got to stop the ball from getting to the second level. We've got to be much better defending the run and those big guys up front are going to be an integral part of our success."
Soliai put it much more succintly.
"I'm just more muscle on the line," he said.
Both are telling the truth. Soliai and Jackson add more muscle and pounds to a D-line that has gotten a bit of a makeover this offseason. With those two up front, the Falcons can be more multiple in the defense they present to opponents, but the biggest winner in the added beef is the Falcons' run defense.
While the pass rush is important, this beefed-up Falcons front is first and foremost here to stop the run.
"I try my best to be a real physical run defender and hold onto blocks and let our linebackers run the top," Jackson said. "I can force double teams to create mismatches. I'm still trying to transition my game and be a better pass rusher and affect the quarterback as well."
Once again, Soliai says the same, but in fewer words.
"If I'm not doing my job, there's a big gap in the middle," he said.
The two D-linemen recognize their role in Atlanta. While sacks would be great, Jackson and Soliai are here to occupy space so everyone else can make plays. Jackson is new to this defense, and he's leaning on Soliai, who played in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme in Miami, to help learn the nuances.
"He played in the defense a couple of years in Miami," Jackson said. "He's able to help me transition a little bit faster than I was expecting. I'm relying on that guy a whole lot because he's played this defense a long time and he knows what the job calls for."