Adrian Clayborn’s Health Important For Pass Rush

When the Atlanta Falcons brought in veteran RDE Adrian Clayborn via free agency, GM Thomas Dimitroff knew the potential risk-reward scenarios that came with the often injured defensive lineman.  While Clayborn is a former first-round pick and an obvious defensive line starter when healthy, he has missed a combined 28 games over four seasons when he was with the Atlanta Falcons’ NFC South Rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Adrian Clayborn is looking to prove to himself and the rest of the league that he merited a first-round selection out of Iowa in 2011 with his play in 2015 for Dan Quinn’s Dirty Birds.  With Atlanta desperately trying to establish a competent pass rush this fall, can RDE Adrian Clayborn be relied upon to start on the defensive line and play many snaps for the Atlanta Falcons?

Coach Quinn likes Clayborn’s versatility as an every-down defensive lineman.  At 6’3″, 281 lbs., Clayborn can play both RDE and even some 3-Technique DT in Quinn and DC Richard Smith’s Base 4-3 and Nickel Packages.  I liken him to a Jonathan Babineaux-type of defensive lineman, meaning you can mix and match Clayborn to different spots in multiple defensive sets.  With Adrian, the Falcons’ defensive line can go both big and small with him on the field.

Clayborn can get after the quarterback with 13.0 career sacks in 36 games.  He has a knack for stripping the football (5 forced fumbles) and being effective in run stoppage (74 career solo tackles, 35 assists).  So he is a productive defensive lineman when he is on the field.

The reason Clayborn’s health is so crucial to the Falcons’ pass rush and defensive line play in general is that Atlanta has too many linemen that aren’t three-down players.  NT Paul Soliai is too big to play every snap, DE Tyson Jackson’s motor is questionable at times, and Rookie OLB Vic Beasley needs to learn how to play against the run a little better to become an every-down pass rusher.

So really the only guys I feel that play on the line or pass rush that could play every down if needed are Clayborn, Babineaux, and Kroy Biermann.  Their collective versatility will go a long way in helping Quinn and Smith decide which defensive packages/players give the Falcons the best defensive line penetration, especially on obvious passing downs.

I’d like to believe that Adrian Clayborn will have a healthy 2015 campaign for the Atlanta Falcons.  Honestly, he is going to have to or else he becomes an injury liability to other GM’s in the NFL.  The Atlanta Falcons cannot afford to have such an important piece on their defensive line sidelined this fall.  If Clayborn has three injury-riddle seasons in five years, he might find himself quickly out of the League.  The best ability is availability.