From the day Dan Quinn arrived in Flowery Branch in February of 2015, he's had his eye on bolstering Atlanta's defensive line.
"I coached that position for so long that it is really where my eyes have gone to first," Quinn said at his introductory press conference. "If I can lend expertise in that area, I certainly will. I know to be good in this league you have to be good on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I wholeheartedly believe in that. That will be a real focus for us."
And it certainly has.
Since taking the reins as head coach, the Falcons' defensive line play has seen significant improvement. Atlanta finished the 2016 regular season with 34 sacks, nearly doubling their total from 2015.
The emphasis the Falcons would place on affecting opponents' quarterbacks was evident from the start of Atlanta's offseason program and it carried through the year.
Quinn was often spotted working with the defensive line at practice, implementing new drills that helped his pass rushers' flexibility and ability to get off the ball, which Quinn deems as the most important part of getting to the quarterback.
The devotion the unit showed to improve paid off in a big way, and Quinn is looking for this particular group to take another leap in 2017.
"I thought we had a real intent about improving our pass rush," Quinn said at the NFL Combine. "It was an area in my first year here that we really struggled at. I thought we did a better job at that and it wasn't just from blitzing more, it was the four-man rush that allowed us to do that. I was pleased with that. I think we have areas we are going to improve upon at the line of scrimmage. We took a big step, and now we need to take another big one."
Not only does Atlanta have young talent in tow with Vic Beasley, Jr. and Grady Jarrett emerging in their second professional campaigns, the team will also benefit from Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby returning from injuries.
The foundation is certainly in place and Quinn wants to continue to build around it.
Quinn said at the Combine that pass rushers is a position he's "always looking for" and this year's draft class is full of them.
NFL Network's draft analyst Mike Mayock said on a pre-Combine conference call that not only is there quality talent at edge rusher at the top, there's a lot of depth.
That's good news for the Falcons, considering Atlanta has the No. 31 overall pick in this year's draft.
So who are some of the defensive line prospects that could be available if the Falcons decide to address that need in the draft?
Mayock mentioned Stanford's Solomon Thomas, Michigan's Taco Charlton and Florida's Caleb Brantley all as potential fits for Atlanta.
Below are the scouting reports on all three of those players, courtesy of NFL.com:
Weight: 273 lbs.
Analysis: "Explosive defender who combines strength, quickness, and a muscle-car motor to drive him around the field making play after play. Has the hands and feet to be a quick-win specialist and the size to fit as a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive end who can reduce inside for pass-rush downs. He has all the athletic traits to become a high-impact player and possesses more than enough skill and talent to believe he will continue to elevate his game as a pro. Thomas has the potential to become the best defender from this draft class and a future all-pro." – Lance Zierlein
Weight: 272 lbs.
Analysis: "Inconsistent" has been the buzzword that has followed Charlton since coming to Michigan, but he began the process of shaking it during his senior season. Charlton is an ascending prospect with the size, length, athleticism and pass-rushing potential that NFL general managers dream of. What you see today might not be what you get. While his production coming out of college will be modest, he could become a substantially better player as a pro if he's committed to the weight room and willing to absorb coaching. High-impact defensive end with all-pro potential is his ceiling. His floor is solid starter." – Lance Zierlein
Weight: 315 lbs.
Analysis: "Powerful, stout defensive tackle with the quickness to play the three-technique and the power to play the nose. Brantley has the talent and traits that should appeal to both two-gap and one-gap defenses. While we haven't seen Brantley play in even half of Florida's defensive snaps in a single year, the talent is there to become an early starter and a defensive force up front." – Lance Zierlein