Falcons’ Emanuel ready to get his hands on the defensive line

Falcons defensive line coach Gary Emanuel comments on his expectations for the defensive line this season.

Falcons defensive line coach Gary Emanuel can’t wait to see his players in person.

Most of the Falcons have opted out of the NFL’s “voluntary” offseason program, while others may elect to participate in the second and third phases.

The team’s rookie minicamp is set to start with player arrivals Thursday followed by the mandatory minicamp, likely in June.

“We’ll have to see what they do once we get here in practice,” Emanuel said Tuesday.

Emanuel will be charged with helping to stop the run and generate a pass rush. He referred all questions about former defensive end Dante Fowler to outside linebacker coach Ted Monachino.

Emanuel is aware of the Falcons’ long-standing issue of not harassing the opposing quarterbacks.

“The issue (creating a pass rush) is standard with all teams in the league,” Emanuel said. “You (must) have guys who can win some one-on-ones as far as rushing the quarterback goes. Also, just the ability to have some kind of concepts as far as rushing the quarterback and staying in your lanes, doing those kind of things.”

The Falcons finished last season with 29 sacks, which ranked 23rd of 32 teams in the league. They also had 71 hurries and 61 quarterback hits.

“Basically, you want guys that have the ability to win some one-on-ones,” Emanuel said.

He can’t wait to get his hands on the players.

“We are looking forward to working with the guys that are (here) in the program, here on the team,” Emanuel said. “I do want to see where we go from here. It’s hard to really say something based on what you’ve seen on film, until you get to work with other guys and teach them what the scheme of the defense is.”

Emanuel knows that his top pupil is defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.

“Grady has proven that he’s a tremendous football player,” Emanuel said. “He does a lot of things really well. He has the ability to play against the run. He has the ability to play against the pass.”

Emanuel looks forward to meeting Jarrett in person.

“The little bit that I have had to visit with him through our (virtual) meetings, you’re not in person seeing anybody, so it’s hard to get a true feel for somebody, but based on what I’ve seen on film, he’s a tremendous worker,” Emanuel said. “We expect some great things from Grady if he keeps progressing like he’s been doing. Keep being a leader like he has been.’'

Emanuel also looks forward to working with defensive tackle Marlon Davidson, who was a second-round pick and is coming off a shaky rookie season. He spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list, played in only eight games and didn’t have a sack.

“You can’t judge anything by what happened in the past,” Emanuel said. “I’m not sure what happened. I was not here. Marlon seems to be a young man who loves football. He comes from a great football school.”

Thus far, Davidson, who played at Auburn, has impressed the new staff virtually.

“He’s a guy that has really been buying into and participating with the things that have been going on here, that we’ve been allowed to do,” Emanuel said. “He has great physical ability. We are expecting some great things out of Marlon.”

Along with Fowler’s move to outside linebacker, according to the Falcons’ updated roster designations, they just list outside and inside linebackers and defensive linemen, there are no designations for defensive ends or tackles.

In addition to Jarrett and Davidson, the defensive line group includes Steven Means, Ta’Quon Graham, Chris Slayton, Tyeler Davison, Jonathan Bullard, John Cominsky, Deadrin Senat, Eli Howard and Zac Dawe.

“Playing time will take care of itself,” Emanuel said.

Along with Fowler in the outside linebacker group are Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Barkevious Mingo, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Alani Pututau and Kobe Jones.

Emanuel, 62, was out of coaching last season, but has 10 years of NFL coaching experience over his 40-year coaching career. He’s been with the 49ers (2005-06), the Colts (2012-17) and the Giants (2018-19).

“I think with Grady and all of the players, just be consistent in everything that you are doing,” Emanuel said. “Consistent in your run technique. Consistent in your pass rush. Win when you have the ability to win the one-on-one. Just be consistent.”

Emanuel coached Atlanta native Robert Mathis in 2013, the season he led the league with 19.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

Mathis, who played at McNair High and Alabama A&M, finished his stellar career (2003-16) with 123 sacks and 54 forced fumbles.

“Robert will tell you that we had a great relationship,” Emanuel said. “I was fortunate enough to coach Robert Mathis in the 2013 season. Robert is a great young man. I have nothing but a tremendous amount of respect for Robert, and hopefully one day he’ll be a gold jacket wearer (in the Pro Football Hall of Fame).”

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