Thursday November 26th, 2015 1:58AM

Soliai, Jackson bring 'girth' to defensive line

By The Associated Press
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The new wide bodies on the Atlanta Falcons' defensive line are difficult to overlook.<br /> <br /> 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).<br /> <br /> The big additions were on display at Friday Night Lights before a crowd of 12,316 at Archer High School.<br /> <br /> Secondary coach Tim Lewis said Friday he can't help but notice the added size on the defensive front.<br /> <br /> "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!'"<br /> <br /> Lewis believes the big guys will cut down on his defensive backs having to make stops on running plays up the middle.<br /> <br /> "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."<br /> <br /> More size came in the draft with second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman (6-6, 318), a defensive end from Minnesota.<br /> <br /> The newcomers gained added importance when former starting defensive tackle Peria Jerry retired Thursday.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> "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."<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> "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."<br /> <br /> 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.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 10 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 10 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 10 months ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 10 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 10 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 10 months ago )
Professional Sports
'Scary' Archer offers huge roadblock to Hawks' semifinal quest
It wasn't quite ‘The Exorcist,’ but all it took was one quick look at Archer's game film to make Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis shut his eyes and turn away.
7:20PM ( 1 day from now )
Girls basketball: West Hall closes Florida tourney with win
The West Hall girls basketball team notched a 53-42 win over TR Miller High of Brewton, Ala., on Wednesday in the Emerald Coast Thanksgiving Classic tournament in Ft. Walton Beach.
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:00PM ( 10 hours from now )
Pressure Cooker: SEC coaches face unyielding pressure to win
Georgia coach Mark Richt seems to be under constant scrutiny, and it has intensified since the Bulldogs (8-3) were knocked out of the title chase by rival Florida...
11:16AM ( 9 hours from now )
Mann, Frazier help Georgia hold off High Point 49-46
It's Thanksgiving not Halloween, but Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox was sure the Bulldogs were waking the dead with their 49-46 win over High Point Wednesday.
By The Associated Press
11:50PM ( 2 hours ago )
LaVine steps up to help Wolves beat Hawks 99-95
Zach LaVine had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds in place of the injured Ricky Rubio, and the Minnesota Timberwolves swept the season series with the Atlanta Hawks with a 99-95 victory on Wednesday night.
11:14PM ( 2 hours ago )