After breaking down the top rookie for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, let’s take a look at the best veteran newcomer this past season.
This is an honor that I went back and forth on between two candidates, but finally settled on defensive end Adrian Clayborn as the best new veteran addition to the Falcons roster in 2015. The other choice I lingered on was tight end Jacob Tamme, but I’ll explain why I ultimately went with Clayborn.
To be honest, Clayborn never really thrilled me with his play but wound up having a better overall season than Tamme because of his relative consistency over the course of the entire year. Clayborn essentially put together a better overall body of work, while the argument could be made that Tamme was able to achieve higher heights than Clayborn at any given point, but had too many lulls in between them.
Clayborn finished second behind Beasley with three sacks and according to Pro Football Focus, did so again in terms of overall pressures with 26. He also paced the team with 15 hits on the quarterback in 2015.
While there was probably few signature moments for Clayborn throughout the year, he put together a relatively solid body of work throughout the year, often being the team’s second most reliable pass-rusher as the statistics suggested.
Clayborn was never bad nor a non-factor, getting pressure and hitting the quarterback in nearly every game. The knock on Clayborn was that he never really made an overwhelming impact on any one game, or at least when he did it came probably a bit too late in the year to be overly memorable. His two signature moments came in the clutch in the team’s Week 15 and 16 wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, respectively.
Against the Jacksonville, Clayborn registered a sack on that pushed the opponents back on what the Jaguars hoped would be their game-winning drive that didn’t come to fruition. Against Carolina, he recovered a fumble that iced the Falcons upset win. However both plays are notable as they were instances of Clayborn cleaning up plays made initially by pressure from Vic Beasley. Essentially, Clayborn’s best claim to fame was being an effective “second fiddle” to the team’s top rookie.
However it’s notable that both games were two in which Clayborn saw extensive action at right defensive end, rather than the right defensive tackle spot in the team’s nickel sub-package he had played for most of 2015. Defensive line coach Bryan Cox took the blame for not recognizing earlier that Clayborn was more effective playing on the edge than inside. Should the Falcons opt to re-sign Clayborn this offseason (which is likely), the team should do a better job in 2016 deploying him where he’s most effective, using the tribulations of 2015 as a learning process.
Tamme on the other hand ultimately couldn’t snag this honor thanks mostly to the disappearing act he did in the second half of the 2015 season. He had one of the best games of his career in Week Eight against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, snagging 10 catches for 103 yards, both of which were the second highest totals of his career. Just three weeks earlier, Tamme also made a significant impact against the Washignton Redskins with eight catches for 94 yards.
But after the Buccaneers performance, Tamme was mostly an afterthought in the offense. After the bye, Tamme only had one game over the final seven where he eclipsed both five receptions and 60 yards receiving. That came against the Minnesota Vikings when Tamme caught five passes for 69 yards, yet that was mostly do to production in garbage time. Tamme caught three passes for 50 yards in that Vikings game in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter when the Falcons were already down 20-3, padding his numbers.
Unlike Clayborn, there were just too many games in 2015 where Tamme proved irrelevant to merit earning top newcomer honors. However despite those instances of irrelevance, Tamme still had an impressive year on the whole. Like Clayborn, he should be back next year with equal expectations that he too can build off a solid 2015 campaign.
To hear other people’s picks for the top newcomer in 2015, check out the awards episode of the FalcFans podcast.