Saturday, August 6, 2022

Ex-Broncos Super Bowl winner fits in well with Falcons after Vincent Taylor injury

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The free hand hasn’t been kind to the Atlanta Falcons when it comes to acquiring new defensive tackles this offseason. Eddie Goldman signed, then promptly retired, and now another new signing, Vincent Taylor, will miss the 2022 NFL season with a torn Achilles tendon.

These developments have left an otherwise padded defense inside the line. Depth is an issue now, as is the Falcons’ ability to refresh their options and add some momentum to the pass rush on third downs.

Fortunately, both problems can be solved by signing a free agent who was once key to the Denver Broncos winning a Super Bowl. This veteran is an aggressive insider disruptor who still has enough in the tank to support Grady Jarrett in obvious passing situations.

Malik Jackson is still on the market after a disappointing season with the Cleveland Browns. The 32-year-old joined Cleveland in 2021 after two troubled years with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Prior to 2019, Jackson was a linchpin for two standout defenses. First, he helped the 2015 Broncos concede the fewest yards in football en route to beating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

Jackson then joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he helped assist a unit called “Sacksonville” in 2017 after recording 55 QB takedowns. The Jags rode their big-play defense to an appearance in the AFC championship game.

Jackson played his part on both defenses. He notched five sacks and put down seven passes in 2015 and even recovered a Cam Newton fumble for a touchdown in the Super Bowl:

Jackson’s stint with the Jags earned him 18 sacks in three seasons, including eight in 2017. The road to quarterback has rarely been an issue for a player who has 35 career sacks to his credit, a respectable total for someone in the fifth Round was drafted back in 2012.

More than his numbers, Jackson excelled at creating disruption in the pocket with his speed and bursts of power from a variety of alignments. It’s a talent X and O analyst Fran Duffy Featured shortly after Jackson joined the Eagles:

The Falcons could use a center back with Jackson’s pass-rush ability after the defense posted a league-low 18 sacks last season. No defender on the list got more than one, an obvious problem the Falcons hoped to solve with new recruits, only for fate to have other ideas.

In his weekly roundup of fan questions, Falcons Digital Managing Editor Scott Bair answered a question about whether or not the team will expand their options up front: “I expect they’ll dip back into the free agent pool and onward watching cuts for upgrade opportunities.”

It makes sense that general manager Terry Fontenot would be on the lookout for available defensive tackles following Taylor’s injury Approved on Tuesday 2 August from head coach Arthur Smith:

Taylor, a former member of the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Browns and Houston Texans, was counted on for the performance following Goldman’s departure. The latter signed a one-year contract in July after seven seasons with the Chicago Bears, but soon announced his decision to end his playing career NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

It’s easy to share Bair’s belief that the Falcons aren’t done signing defensive tackle help. Complementing his response, Bair mentioned three veterans: “There are a few names you’ve heard of on the open market – Linval Joseph, Malik Jakson and Star Lotuleilei to name a few – but the Falcons need to find the right one for them plan to find.”

Of the three, Jackson is the most intriguing name. He could play a variety of spots down the line but would certainly work best alongside Jarrett on third downs, trying to split guard tackle gaps and collapse the pocket.

Keeping Jackson in a situational role would also be a smart move because he’s missed a lot of playing time in recent years. A foot injury cost him 15 games in 2019, while Jackson only made six starts the following year.

However, he started in 16 games for the Browns last season, proof Jackson can still come onto the field and be a factor. His skills are certainly worth at least a short-term contract with the Falcons.

Keeping Jackson in a situational role would also be a smart move because he’s missed a lot of playing time in recent years. A foot injury cost him 15 games in 2019, while Jackson only made six starts the following year.

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