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Falcons looking to get pass rush right with Dwight Freeney, Adrian Clayborn


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Falcons looking to get pass rush right with Dwight Freeney, Adrian Clayborn

Vaughn McClure

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn was one of the first to say the addition of veteran pass-rusher Dwight Freeney should make the defense much better.

At the same time, Clayborn knew Freeney was signed to rush from the right edge. For Clayborn, the right edge suits him the best, in part, because he was born with Erb's palsy, a condition that caused nerve damage to his right shoulder and arm. Lining up on the right side allows him to extend his left arm and hand to get around the edge.

"That's what I played all through college and that's what I played when I was in Tampa," said Clayborn, a first-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2011. "So it's where I'm more comfortable at. It's like if you stick a left tackle at right tackle. You would have to adjust."

Clayborn lined up exclusively on the right side during the preseason-opening victory Thursday against the Washington Redskins. So what's going to happen once Freeney gets into the lineup as a nickel rusher?

"We're just going to line them up right behind one another," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said with a laugh. "Clayborn and Dwight both know -- and we've communicated that with them -- you'll definitely see Clayborn some inside with Freeney coming outside. ... That's why it's important for Clayborn and Freeney to get together so they can do some of the third-down work that they'll do together.

"We're counting on both of them, man, to be a big role. We're going to play over 60 percent of our snaps in nickel, so both of them have a really big role with us. I'm pumped to see what they'll do when we put them on the field together as well."

In other words, Clayborn will have to make a sacrifice out of his comfort zone -- again. Remember: Last season, the Falcons used him more as an interior rusher with rookie Vic Beasley Jr. rushing from the right side to start his career. Near the end of the season, defensive line coach Bryan Cox admitted suggesting Clayborn play inside was a mistake.

"I think it was probably dumb on my part, to be honest," Cox said. "I waiting too long to pull the trigger to put him outside. I kick myself with A.C. because I knew what he was. I coached him in Tampa, so I knew he could work outside, but I hesitated too long."

Clayborn finished the season with three sacks and a team-leading 15 quarterback hits. Beasley, now rushing from the left edge, led the way a year ago with four sacks. It didn't much matter because the Falcons were last in the league with 19 total sacks, which is why Freeney is now a part of the team.

Clayborn is going to be a key component, regardless of where he lines up. Quinn was impressed with how he performed against the Redskins.

"I felt some real juice from Clayborn," Quinn said. "He was probably somebody that jumped out to me in a good way with guys that we're counting on to have a significant role."

Clayborn simply wants to elevate his game.

"I'd say more speed rush, and don't be afraid to take it around the edge," Clayborn. "I've got to get tackles moving their feet. Everybody knows that I have power. I have some moves, but I definitely don't burn the edge enough, so I'm looking this year just to come off the edge more."

Maybe the addition of Freeney will light even more of a fire under Clayborn. Then again, he has all the motivation he needs.

"I think coming off last season, everyone's trying to step up their game," Clayborn said. "Having another guy is definitely going to get guys fired up. Like I said, there's nothing but good going to come out of it."

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Calyborn was getting good pressure in the preseason game. Once they get Freeney integrated, it could free up a lot more pressure. Seeing as how Beasley was getting held every other play, it looks like we might have something cooking with this defensive line. Might take a few weeks to get it all together and gel, but so far, it's looking promising.

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47 minutes ago, droopy1592 said:

One end got a hit and one end was held on the same play. Pressure looks better already. 

 

Freeney ain't even in the mix yet. We have good rotation and a good five man rush. 

It's starting to appear that the 5 main defensive line pass rushers will be Freeney, Clayborn, Beasley, Shelby and perhaps Babs. One nickel package using these 5 might be RDE Freeney, RDT Clayborn (or Babs), LDT Shelby, and RDE Beasley.  Another nickel package using these 5 might be RDE Clayborn (or Freeney), RDT Babs, LDT Shelby, and LDE Beasley . Of course, different Defensive Linemen other than these 5 will sometimes appear in the nickle pass-rushing packages also.

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48 minutes ago, theProf said:

It's starting to appear that the 5 main defensive line pass rushers will be Freeney, Clayborn, Beasley, Shelby and perhaps Babs. One nickel package using these 5 might be RDE Freeney, RDT Clayborn (or Babs), LDT Shelby, and RDE Beasley.  Another nickel package using these 5 might be RDE Clayborn (or Freeney), RDT Babs, LDT Shelby, and LDE Beasley . Of course, different Defensive Linemen other than these 5 will sometimes appear in the nickle pass-rushing packages also.

Not to mention when we should decide to blitz a LB or a SS, these cats all have incredible closing speed unlike last year. You add this closing speed improvement to the nickle Rush package linemen and we could be much better than last year.

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1 hour ago, BadMoonRising said:

If the line does do well this season, do we  give Quinn the credit. If it does poorly do we blame TD?

 

I am so confused on the rules.

 

 

If Beasley lines up on the left side he is the Right safety in a 4-3 under unless it's a Thursday night game.  Simple.

Edited by JC Falcon
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