Most starters will sit in the first preseason of a new campaign, but not all of them. Although he'll have to earn the job, Marlon Davidson should be in the running to start alongside Grady Jarrett.
The Atlanta Falcons provided little to cheer over offensively, but two things were evident for the defense. The first is new coordinator Dean Pees is making the most out of his the pieces on his the roster.
The second? The youth movement should be in full swing sooner rather than later.
Davidson was a highlight of the night despite the team's 23-3 exhibition loss to the Tennessee Titans. Linebacker Mykal Walker and rookie safety Richie Grant also were key contributors as well.
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Davidson's big play came in the red zone on third down. Tennessee QB Logan Woodside needed seven yards to keep the play rolling, but they only managed three from running back Mekhi Sargent.
On both second and third down, Davidson made the stop. Instead of allowing the drive to continue, the Titans settled for a 26-yard field goal.
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Walker, the second-year linebacker from Fresno State, set the tone on the defense's second drive. With a third-down look, Walker, along with rookie Adetokunbo Ogundeji, broke up the middle for the sack, forcing Tennessee's second punt of the night.
Walker finished with a total of four tackles.
As for Grant, expectations are high for him to contribute right away. Stability in the secondary is key, primarily in tackling. While fans likely know him best for his coverage skills, the UCF product gave Pees another reason to play him.
Grant led all secondary players in tackles with four. He also contributed on special teams, making the game's first tackle on the opening kickoff.
According to the initial depth chart, Davidson is listed as the second-team defensive tackle. Walker is the primary backup to Deion Jones. Grant will be learning behind Erik Harris and Duron Harmon.
A preseason game without starters likely won't move the needle much. Strong practices and work against first-team offenses will. However, Davidson showed why he was worth the No. 47 pick in 2020.
Walker continues to prove he's improving at each level of the field. Grant's skills in coverage warrant at least reps in packages designed to play the pass.
The Falcons are looking for consistency and playmakers after finishing with the 29th in total defense last fall. Mission accomplished for Davidson, Walker and Grant in that category.