Falcons coach Dan Quinn shed some light on the team’s re-made defensive roster Wednesday.
The Falcons were hit hard on defense during free agency, as they lost defensive end Vic Beasley (leader in sacks), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (top reserve end), defensive tackle Jack Crawford, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (leader in tackles) and cornerback Desmond Trufant (leader in interceptions).
Along the line, the Falcons must replace three of their top six players and 1,656 snaps from last season.
Beasley played the second most snaps (774) on the line and had eight sacks. Clayborn played 446 snaps, the fifth most, and Crawford played 436 snaps, the sixth most.
In addition to agreeing to terms with defensive end Dante Fowler, the Falcons re-signed defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, defensive ends Allen Bailey and Steven Means, who spent last season on injured reserve.
“To be able to re-sign Tye that was a big thing for us from the nose tackle side of things,” Quinn said. “Tye and his ability in the run game, (he) was a good addition for us. Having Allen back and his versatility to play outside and inside (is a plus).”
Means played well in 2018 and was set to take on an expanded role in 2019 before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in May.
“He provides pass rush for us,” Quinn said. “We’re excited to get him back. Then with the addition of Dante to the group, we like where that’s headed.”
Also, the Falcons clearly are counting on defensive end Takk McKinley to recover from shoulder surgery.
In addition to McKinley, the Falcons will need more from second-year end/tackle John Cominsky, who is set to receive an increased role.
“Certainly, we’ll see Cominsky and his role increasing as it’s going,” Quinn said.
Cominsky, a fourth-round pick, played at Division II Charleston (W.Va.). He played 63 defensive snaps (6.7%) and 28 special-teams snaps (7%) in eight games before he sustained a high ankle sprain. He had six tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed. Overall, he played 102 defensive snaps (9.7%) and finished with 11 tackles last season.
Cominsky was inactive for six games with the injury.
Cominsky was a high school quarterback who weighed 215 pounds and didn’t have any scholarship offers coming out of Barberton (Ohio) High. He developed into a pass-rushing menace while at Charleston and impressed NFL scouts with his physical and intellectual capacity (31 Wonderlic score).
He finished his college career with 218 tackles (48.5 for loss) and 16 sacks.
Cominsky was just starting to get comfortable in the NFL before the ankle injury last season.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was impressed with Cominsky’s small body of work late last season.
“He’s a big dude,” Jarrett said. “He’s versatile. He can play all across the defensive line, whether it’s tackle or end. He’s a factor on special teams. We are excited for him to show what he can do.”
While the Falcons likely will add to the defensive line in the draft – Quinn likes the depth at tackle – he believes team is well on its way to replacing the more than 1,600 snaps.
“We excited to have Steven back from the injury,” Quinn said. “We are excited about Dante and his addition to the team. Those are two guys who’ll hopefully add into (replacing) some of those reps that were taken a year ago.”
Linebacker Foye Oluokun is ready take over for De’Vondre Campbell, who led the team in tackles for the past two seasons.
He signed with Arizona in free agency.
“One, I know that he is,” Quinn said when asked if Oluokun was ready to replace Campbell. “We saw that as a rookie where he stepped up and made some plays and had to start a number of games when Deion (Jones) was injured.”
Oluokun, who was drafted in the sixth round out of Yale in the 2018, played in all 16 games and made seven starts as a rookie. He finished with 91 tackles.
Last season, he played in all 16 games and made three starts. He had 62 tackles.
“He’s a better player today than he was as a rookie,” Quinn said. “The progress that he’s made (with) leadership, man-to-man coverage (and) leverage in tackling. We’re excited about Foye. We like the development that he’s made, and I know he’s certainly ready to take another jump.”
The Falcons like young cornerbacks Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield. They also re-signed veteran reserve Blidi Wreh-Wilson, but don’t have a replacement for Trufant yet.
“We’ll find the best combination once we get back and get going,” Quinn said.
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