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Falcons assistant Raheem Morris still believes in Adrian Clayborn

Atlanta Falcons assistant head coach Raheem Morris sounded like a proud father in speaking about defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, and for good reason.

Clayborn, in his first year with the Falcons, was the last first-round draft pick Morris selected during his three-year, head-coaching stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Back then in 2011, Morris used words such as "alpha male" and "Rambo" to describe Clayborn.

Four years later, his feelings haven’t changed.

"When we came back here and we talked about free agents, we talked about bringing in tough, competitive guys and when you looked at the free-agent list, Adrian just jumped off the list, in my opinion,’’ Morris said.

"Personally, that was my No. 1 guy. When we drafted him in Tampa, that was one of the major things I loved about him: tough, competitive. He brings the nasty demeanor and the attitude, the go-get-it-type guy you want. He fits [Dan Quinn's] type of attitude. He fit Bryan Cox’s attitude.’’

Clayborn is expected to help resuscitate a pass rush considered among the league's worst last season. The Falcons have recorded a league-low 83 sacks over the past three seasons. Last season, the Falcons pressured opposing quarterbacks on just 22 percent of their dropbacks which ranked last in the NFC, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This offseason, Clayborn has shown the ability to bring pressure off the edge and from the interior. In rush situations, the most potent group going into the 2015 season is likely to consist of Clayborn and Jonathan Babineaux on the interior with rookie Vic Beasley and newcomer O'Brien Schofield rushing off the edge.

Clayborn, who suffered a season-ending torn biceps one game into last season and missed 13 games in 2012 due to a knee injury, aims to have a healthy, productive season. Morris is confident the guy who recorded 7.5 sacks as a rookie will resurface.

"I thought Adrian would be a good fit for the toughness Thomas Dimitroff and his staff wanted to bring to this team, and hopefully he does a great job for us," Morris said. "He’s been out here working his butt off. He’s been out here competing. And I think all the [free-agent guys] are fired up about the role we want those guys to play."

Clayborn appreciates the support from Morris.

"It feels good that he’s here and he believes in me," Clayborn said. "I know Coach Quinn believes in him. So, it’s just a great feeling to know that you have coaches that stand behind you and how you can play."

So has Morris changed since the time he drafted Clayborn?

"He’s still the same Rah: still goofy, but serious when he needs to be," Clayborn said. "You can just tell he knows his stuff."