Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series examining where 2020 NFL Draft picks from Auburn landed last week and how those situations will affect their professional careers. The series will also look at how Auburn will try to replace each player.
The Atlanta Falcons have had a lot of success over the past decade, but they have managed that success without a premier pass rusher on the roster. Aside from an outlier season by Vic Beasley in 2016, the Falcons have not had a Pro Bowl pass rusher since John Abraham in 2010.
The Falcons turned to an Auburn man in the second round of last week’s NFL Draft to attempt to remedy some of those shortcomings and spark a defense desperate to show improvement in 2020.
Marlon Davidson comes off a season in which he was one of the most feared defensive linemen in the SEC and college football as a whole. Davidson starred for the Tigers and finished fourth in the SEC with eight sacks.
“His intensity, his physicality, I think that all shines through,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said in a virtual press conference posted to atlantafalcons.com last Friday.
Where he fits in:
While the outside pass rusher spots have been inconsistent, Grady Jarrett has emerged as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL and made his first Pro Bowl last year. Jarrett is excited about the prospect of playing next to Davidson.
“I’ve been seeing some of the plays that he made and just the kind of personality that he is,” Grady Jarrett said on a conference call with media posted to atlantafalcons.com. “I’m super, super excited to meet him in person and get to know him.”
Before the NFL Draft, the Falcons had already committed to improving the pass rush by signing former Florida Gator Dante Fowler to a three-year, $48 million deal. They will also hope for further improvement from former first-round pick Takkarist McKinley, who saw his fifth-year option get declined last week.
Davidson has the versatility to line up at either defensive end or defensive tackle for the Falcons. Quinn indicated that Davidson will start on the interior of the defensive line, which will be a slight position change from Auburn.
“We are going to try to feature him at a defensive tackle spot over the guards as often as we can, but having a guy with that kind go versatility, you can imagine,” Quinn said in the virtual press conference.
What they say about him:
“Big, stout, strong, athletic interior defensive lineman,” Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said during the virtual press conference. “Really going to help us sure up the run and also can get some really good push. We love his ability to mix with Grady Jarrett and all the other guys on the defensive front.”
How Auburn replaces him:
Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele have built the Tigers into having a reputation as one of the strongest defensive lines in the country. Losing standouts like Derrick Brown and Davidson will obviously hurt the group, but Garner and Steele have shown the ability to develop talent there.
Derick Hall was listed on the Tigers’ depth chart as a backup to Davidson this past year. Going into his sophomore season, Auburn will likely look for Hall to add some strength after he was listed at nearly 50 pounds less than Davidson a year ago.
Hall finished the season with 13 tackles as a freshman, including a season-high three tackles against Minnesota in the Outback Bowl.
Big Kat Bryant will also be counted on to step up into a more prominent pass-rushing role after starting at the Buck defensive end position last year.