Eddie Goldman Gone: What's Next? Falcons Training Camp 3 to Watch – Interior D-Line – Yardbarker

The Atlanta Falcons have been searching for help alongside star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett for the last several years. The Falcons thought they’d found a solution in recently signed free agent nose tackle Eddie Goldman, but he opted for retirement prior to suiting up for a single practice.
With Atlanta needing to replace the production Goldman was expected to bring, all eyes look to the group behind Jarrett, which offers a fascinating blend of past contributors and young players looking to establish roles in the NFL.
With the second level of Atlanta’s defense having question marks following the loss of linebacker Foye Oluokun and expected departure of his running mate, Deion Jones, the Falcons will be reliant on their line to hold up at the point of attack and occupy blocks.
In 2022, Atlanta will be focused on evaluating its young talent, with eyes partially towards the future. While the unit as a whole should be stronger than last season, deciphering whether or not Jarrett’s long-term partner is on the roster will be the most important development.
Step one of that process starts in training camp, which begins next week. Here are three to watch on the interior of the defensive line.
Perhaps nobody embodies Atlanta’s defensive line quite like Davidson, who’s a significant beneficiary of Goldman’s retirement. A second-round pick out of Auburn in 2020, Davidson battled injuries and a stint on the COVID-19 list during his rookie campaign, limiting him to just eight games.
After experiencing his first regular NFL offseason last summer, Davidson seemed poised for a bounce-back second season but succumbed to the same things that plagued him during year one, forcing him to miss six games.
Due to these external factors, the 6-3, 303-pound Davidson has yet to truly show what he’s capable of in the NFL. However, with the 24-year-old now entering year three without an established niche on Atlanta’s roster, time is running out.
With Goldman no longer in the picture, Davidson, who has played both defensive end and defensive tackle, should receive considerable reps with the first team nickel defense in camp. With adversity in the rearview mirror and opportunity firmly in his hands, Davidson has the perfect storm to prove himself in a true make-or-break season.
The Falcons had the fewest sacks in the league last year with a meme 18, and coach Arthur Smith is entering the new season with an emphasis on interior pass rush. Look no further than Graham, a 2021 fifth-round pick out of Texas.
While the 23-year-old started five games during his rookie campaign, he’s still searching for his first career sack. However, Atlanta drafted Graham knowing he’s a big-time athlete (90th percentile in 40-yard dash and broad jump) with untapped potential as a pass rusher.
Graham totaled 17.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks over the final 21 games of his Longhorns career and notched two tackles for loss in his opening NFL season. During camp, the Falcons will hope to see an improved plan of attack from Graham, a clear sign that he’s poised to make the common second-year jump.
Smith needs somebody to step up inside, and Graham, now equipped with 13 games of experience and a full offseason under his belt, will be given an opportunity to prove he can solve Atlanta’s interior pass rush woes.
Prior to the signing of Goldman, Rush was the favorite to start at nose tackle, something he did six times last season after signing with the Falcons mid-season. Rush, a 6-4, 361-pounder who bounced around the league before finding a home in Atlanta, re-signed with the team on a one-year deal in March.
The 25-year-old Rush is now back atop the depth chart, with only undrafted rookie Timothy Horne behind him. Atlanta carried two nose tackles last season, with Rush and now-Chicago Bear Mike Pennel splitting snaps down the stretch.
With Goldman’s announcement, Rush’s roster spot is safe and his path to the starting job is clear. However, the initial signing of Goldman largely came out of the blue and showed that the Falcons viewed nose tackle as an area in need of improvement.
With veterans reporting to training camp July 26, the ball is now in Rush’s court to show the team that he can handle the responsibilities of being Atlanta’s starting nose tackle, an especially important role in Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 scheme.
If the former UAB Blazer is unable to assert his presence during camp, look for the Falcons to bring in another body to challenge – if not overtake – him during the season’s early stages.
Regardless, there are several questions and, other than the steady presence of Jarrett, few answers inside Atlanta’s defensive line room. With veterans reporting next week, the results will come soon enough.
This article first appeared on FanNation Falcon Report and was syndicated with permission.
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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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