Is the Defensive Line the key to an Elite Defense?

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Tyrod Taylor
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Tyrod Taylor /

If the Falcons want to have an elite defense this year, it all starts with the defensive line.

Ever since Coach Dan Quinn took the helm, he’s made it a point to give the defense a complete overhaul. He’s injected speed, toughness and depth into all position groups of the defense. He’s done it in all the right ways. This is clearly one of the those talented, young defenses in the NFL.  However, If this unit is to be truly elite, the defensive line will have to take a major step forward in 2018.

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People like to say the Falcons deploys a 4-3 ‘under’ front, which is a fancy way of saying the defense is putting their strength to the weak side of the offense and bringing that SAM (strong side) linebacker closer to the line of scrimmage. However, going that far isn’t completely necessary as ultimately, Coach Quinn’s deploys a even front where his linemen have one gap responsibility.

Coach Quinn loves athletes on all levels of his defense. The defensive line is no different. Atlanta started the injection of talent with the drafting of Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett in 2015. They then added Takk McKinley in 2017 and Deadrin Senat in 2018. As you can tell, this team makes sure to draft a core group of players which all have very specific traits: toughness, quickness, strength and athleticism.

In addition to having Jack Crawford, Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby, Coach Quinn also added Terrell McClain to his defensive line group in Free Agency. This is actually a pretty versatile unit, as we all know Coach Quinn loves his versatility. He has strength, size, youth, athleticism and speed permeating through this defensive line unit now.

However, there are plenty of questions to ask.

Will Beasley return back to form as a full time defensive end and further round out his game? Will McKinley take the next step forward we all expect and be more productive with more reps?

Will Terrell McClain be that solid, disruptive player we saw in Dallas as he’s now in a front to which he was once very comfortable?

Will Jack Crawford be productive as a Nickel DT? If all of these questions end up being yes, this defense could truly be a top 5 unit.