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Falcons' DL coach Bryan Cox wants Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai to be themselves

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons made a decision last season to beef up the defensive line by adding run-stuffers Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson for a combined $25 million guaranteed.

The results were minimal.

Now, with a new, more aggressive scheme under head coach Dan Quinn, it's fair to wonder if Soliai and Jackson will have significant roles. Defensive line coach Bryan Cox simply wants them to be themselves.

"They need to be who they are," Cox said. "That's all they're going to be asked to be, is who they are. If we get the best of them, as individual players, we're going to be more than OK. They have a role. The biggest thing you're going to see is, I think, is the strength that they play with will come up. With those guys, they'll be fine in this system."

Jackson is in the process of dropping weight to play defensive end in a 4-3 under defense, a role he's not accustomed to based on his previous 3-4 experience. Soliai, who battled through a nagging shoulder injury last season, told ESPN.com he lost focus following the sudden death of his father last November.

"It affected me a lot," Soliai said. "I'm focused now. I'm ready to go. I know if he was still here, he would be mad for me to be thinking like I was. But I'm good now."

Soliai and Jackson played less than half the defensive snaps last season, and with more depth along the defensive line this season, their playing time could decrease. So when they're in the game, they have to play with force and create avenues for others to make plays. Quinn's simple and aggressive scheme allows all the linemen to get up the field rather than having to read and react as much.

As for some of the other defensive linemen, Cox pointed to a few players who have caught his eye during organized team activities.

"Cliff Matthews is looking improved; Ra'Shede (Hageman) is looking improved and his weight is good," Cox said. "When you talk about Joey Mbu, a free-agent guy, he looks to have some promise in shorts. We'll see what he looks like when the pads come on.

"Adrian Clayborn adds some versatility to what we're doing. He looks good, inside and out. So we've got some guys who have kind of made statements and come out and adjusted well to what we're doing."