Rookie defensive end Malliciah Goodman doesn’t have to stand front and center once the Atlanta Falcons begin training camp in two weeks.
In fact, the defending NFC South champions will be perfectly happy if the former Clemson star simply stands tall — and to the left.
Goodman was one of two DEs taken by Atlanta in April’s NFL Draft. He was the 30th pick of the fourth round and 127th selection overall.
The Falcons also snagged TCU’s Stansly Mapongo in the fifth round, but the offseason addition of Osi Umenyiora from the Giants — and release of John Abraham — means Umenyiora will anchor the right side of the line and Goodman will have a good chance to start at left end.
Although the pads won’t really start popping until a few days after camp opens open on July 25, general manager Thomas Dimitroff sees almost limitless potential in the 6-4 Goodman.
“He’s 275-plus pounds,” Dimitroff said. “He could be a 290-pound left defensive end, 5-technique, if we needed him to be. And he has the versatility so you can move him outside a little bit more. He can rush up the field on the outside and also has the ability to hold the point.
“We like his versatility. We looked at him as mostly a left defensive end.”
Goodman also possesses some of the longest arms in the NFL at 36 and 3/8-inches.
“It’s a lot easier for me to get extension on offensive linemen,” Goodman told atlantafalcons.com. “If I’m late shooting my hands or I’m lazy shooting my hands then it’s hard, but you’ve just got to be on point. If I shoot my hands right, get off the ball, it’s hard for them to get under me and stop me.”
When Goodman was at his best in college, he could be a game changer.
He earned a starting role at Clemson in 2011, finishing the year with two sacks and four tackles for loss.
Last season he contributed 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and an ACC-best four forced fumbles.
By the time his days in Death Valley were done the Florence native had 150 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 35 QB pressures, three pass breakups, eight caused fumbles and one recovered fumble in 54 games and 28 starts.
“He has big, violent aggressive hands,” Dimitroff said. “He can stick them into the breastplate and manipulate the offensive line or the blocker. He has the ability to shed. He’s a manipulative kind of defensive player with those strong hands. I think he’ll continue to get more aggressive off the left side.”
Ironically, Goodman will now play all his home games in the same venue where he had one of his best games (and last game) as a collegian.
Clemson’s 25-24 conquest of LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl came in the Georgia Dome. Goodman’s performance (four tackles, three sacks) earned him defensive player-of-the-game honors.
Umenyiora says all the defensive ends showed promise during Organized Team Activities and minicamp.
“They’re maturing,” Umenyiora said. “They’re maturing very, very fast. Malliciah is a good player. (Second year DE) Jonathan Massaquoi is very good also. These are going to be tremendous football players in this league.”
Still, Goodman realizes what he accomplished in shorts and shells won’t matter if he can’t duplicate it once things get serious in Flowery Branch, Ga.
“When you’re in just jerseys, you can’t shed like you want to shed or do things you want to do, so it’ll be a different step coming into training camp,” Goodman told atlantafalcons.com. “I’m working on keeping (my hands) tight and shooting my arms. If I can do that and stay low, it’s hard for the offensive linemen to get in my chest. That’s one of the things I focus on a lot.”