What's buzzing:

Soliai, Jackson bring 'girth' to defensive line

AP - Sports
Soliai, Jackson bring 'girth' to defensive line
.

View gallery

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- The new wide bodies on the Atlanta Falcons' defensive line are difficult to overlook.

After Atlanta finished next to last in the NFL in run defense last season, some substantial bulk was added to the defensive line. Among the newcomers are two veterans expected to start - defensive tackle Paul Soliai (6-foot-4, 345) and defensive end Tyson Jackson (6-4, 296).

The big additions were on display at Friday Night Lights before a crowd of 12,316 at Archer High School.

Secondary coach Tim Lewis said Friday he can't help but notice the added size on the defensive front.

''What stands out to me is how big we are up front,'' Lewis said. ''Our defensive line is a lot bigger. When I'm standing 40 yards back and watching I'm going, 'Whew!'''

Lewis believes the big guys will cut down on his defensive backs having to make stops on running plays up the middle.

''The girth of the defensive line is a lot different, to see how wide they are,'' Lewis said. ''Runs don't typically come screaming right at the safety. So that's a nice thing.''

More size came in the draft with second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman (6-6, 318), a defensive end from Minnesota.

The newcomers gained added importance when former starting defensive tackle Peria Jerry retired Thursday.

Defensive line coach Brian Cox laughed when told his linemen were hot topics among other assistants. He said general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith made good on their commitment to add size to the line.

''It's a true testament to Thomas and coach Smith just trying to go out and get some talent, to upgrade some talent at some positions,'' Cox said. ''And now it makes us a much deeper team. It makes us a much bigger team. It makes us a much stronger team.''

Soliai is expected to start in the middle of the line when the Falcons use a 3-4 scheme. Jonathan Babineaux, a returning starter, and Jackson could be the first-team ends on a three-man front.

More help will come when Corey Peters (6-3, 305) completes his recovery from Achilles surgery. He had a career-high five sacks before the injury late last year and hopes to be ready for the start of the season.

The second half of the Friday Night Lights schedule was a scrimmage with full tackling. The offense won 15-5. The scrimmage ended with Tramaine Thompson's touchdown catch.

Smith said the annual Friday Night Lights, held at different high schools, is ''one of my favorite events.'' He said the scrimmage before fans was a warm-up for the team's preseason opener against Miami in one week.

''I really wanted to expose our young players to what it's going to be like in terms of the intensity,'' Smith said. ''They're going to see a little more intensity than they faced tonight, but I think they got a little taste of what it's going to be like in the Georgia Dome.''

NOTES: The team signed DT Theo Agnew (6-4, 280) of Georgia State. Agnew participated in Atlanta's rookie minicamp as a tryout player following the draft. He began his college career at Massachusetts before transferring to Georgia State. ... S Dwight Lowery left with a head injury that is not believed to be serious. ... WR Julio Jones was on the field but not in pads as he continues to have his practice time monitored in training camp during his recovery from foot surgery. ... RB Steven Jackson continues to be held out with a right hamstring injury.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Charles Odum on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharlesOdum

View Comments (4)
  • Career will benefit from turbulent season, says Inzaghi

    Career will benefit from turbulent season, says Inzaghi

    AC Milan's Filippo Inzaghi believes his career will benefit in the long term from his turbulent first season as a Serie A coach. Inzaghi, promoted from the youth team in June for his first senior coaching role, has faced almost constant speculation … More »

    Reuters - 4 minutes 22 seconds ago
  • Weekend Sports In Brief

    The pressure of a $180 million payday never got to Floyd Mayweather Jr., even if the richest fight ever wasn't the best. Using his reach and his jab Saturday night, Mayweather frustrated Manny Pacquiao, piling up enough points to win a unanimous … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 24 minutes ago
  • LEADING OFF: Astros aim for 11th win in row, Hamilton plays

    LEADING OFF: Astros aim for 11th win in row, Hamilton plays

    A look at what's happening all around the major leagues today: --- IN ORBIT The Astros go for their 11th straight win when they host Texas. Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 0.73 ERA) starts for Houston, which is enjoying its best run since a 12-game victory … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 48 minutes ago
  • Ovechkin can still dazzle amid tight-checking postseason

    Ovechkin can still dazzle amid tight-checking postseason

    Even in defeat, Alexander Ovechkin produced the goal of the weekend, squeezing through two opposing players and falling to his stomach while whipping a wrist shot past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist. He still got it done,'' Washington coach Barry … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 49 minutes ago
  • Macau April gambling revenue plunges 39 pct y/y

    (Corrects headline to remove the word record) HONG KONG, May 4 (Reuters) - Gambling revenue in the Chineseterritory of Macau plummeted 38.8 percent in April from a yearearlier, the eleventh consecutive monthly fall as wealthygamblers steered clear … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 53 minutes ago