FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons team facility is abnormally quiet with most players away from the building enjoying their offseason, but there's a handful of players who can be seen roaming the cafeteria after finishing a workout or a training session.
One of those players who's often sighted in Flowery Branch is defensive lineman Jack Crawford who is continuing to rehab from a torn biceps injury that he suffered in back on Oct. 1, 2017, in a home game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Falcons signed Crawford in free agency in 2017 trying to bolster their defensive line. And despite the fact that he saw limited action in his first year in Atlanta, the expectations are high for his return in 2018.
"My expectation for him is that he will be fully, fully ready to compete and battle at the start of camp," head coach Dan Quinn said of Crawford at the NFL combine.
Crawford played well in his first preseason game with the Falcons against the Arizona Cardinals recording four tackles. He played in three regular-season games before getting injured, tallying five tackles.
One specific trait Quinn likes in his defensive linemen is initial get-off speed and Crawford showed that on a number of occasions. Quinn cited that the loss of Crawford was "tough" for the group of because of that initial quickness he adds to the unit.
Atlanta's defensive line improved in the 2017 season, registering 39 sacks on the year, five more than the 2016 season. The unit was also formidable against the run, finishing the season ranked ninth against the run, allowing 104.1 yards per game.
But as Quinn has reiterated every year, he and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will always look to build and add to their team in the trenches.
"We're always looking to add to that group," Quinn said of the defensive line unit.
And with Dontari Poe to likely to sign what Dimitroff believes will be a "lucrative" deal elsewhere, the Falcons have a hole to fill along the interior. Courtney Upshaw, Ahtyba Rubin and Adrian Clayborn are also expected to be free agents come March 14.
So even though we don't know what the Falcons defensive line rotation will look like next season at this point, we do know Crawford will be back and is expected to play a big role.