FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Malliciah Goodman wasn’t surprised to be asked about his long arms after his first practice with the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s not weird,” Goodman said. “It’s repetitive. I hear it every single day. You get used to it.”
Such is life for the player with the longest arms of any defensive lineman in this year’s NFL combine. It was a tag that stuck, and it was one reason the former Clemson star was selected by the Falcons in the fourth round.
The Falcons are counting on Goodman causing problems for quarterbacks with those long arms and strong hands.
Goodman was one of two defensive ends taken by Atlanta in the draft. The Falcons picked Texas Christian’s Stansly Maponga in the fifth round, and the first-year players had their first NFL workouts in Saturday’s rookie camp.
After releasing sacks leader John Abraham, the Falcons signed free-agent defensive end Osi Umenyiora from the Giants. Goodman has a chance to start with Umenyiora.
Goodman impressed scouts by using those long arms and strong hands to deflect blockers. He is listed as 6-foot-4 and 276 pounds, and his arms measure 36⅜ inches.
“It’s a lot easier for me to get extension on offensive linemen,” he said. “If I’m late shooting my hands, then it’s hard. I just have to be on point, shoot my hands up right and then it’s hard for them to get under me and stop me.”
Goodman’s hands, also unusually large, were described by scouts as “violent.”
“Big, violent aggressive hands,” explained Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff after the draft. “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.”
Goodman developed his strong hands on long drives.
“You know the little gripper things you can get at sporting goods places?” Goodman asked. “I used that while driving in the car a couple hours. It helps you stay up, and it strengthens your arms, too.
“Somebody suggested I do it just to get stronger hands, better grip when you’re tackling and control at the offensive line.”
Dimitroff said Goodman will play left defensive end. Maponga will play on the right side, where Umenyiora is the projected starter.
Veteran Kroy Biermann took over at left end last November when Ray Edwards was released. Jonathan Massaquoi also returns at left end.
“There will be a lot of competition at that spot in our mind,” Dimitroff said.
Goodman sees a chance to play or even start as a rookie.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Goodman said. “Coming in and getting drafted, I have a chance to make an early impact. I want to get this thing down pat. I’m going to put my all into it.”
Goodman had seven sacks in 2012. His eight career forced fumbles rank third in Clemson history. He played behind Da’Quan Bowers, a second-rounder in 2011 for Tampa Bay, and Andre Branch, a second-rounder for Jacksonville last year, early in his career.
Dimitroff said Goodman is big enough to add weight and “be a 290-pound left defensive end.”
“He can rush up the field on the outside and also has the ability to hold the point,” Dimitroff said. “We like his versatility.”
Maponga was not the only rookie limited by an injury Saturday. Quarterback Sean Renfree, a seventh-rounder from Duke, is recovering from a shoulder injury. He took snaps and made handoffs but is not ready to throw.
Seth Doege, an undrafted rookie from Texas Tech, and Graham Wilbert, from Florida Atlantic and in camp on a tryout, shared time at quarterback.
Another notable player in camp on a tryout is running back Richard Samuel of Georgia.