The Falcons' D-Line Ranks 14th in NFL

Question marks surround the Falcons' defensive line.


(source: YardBarker)

Yahoo’s Jason Cole released his latest position rankings article – this time setting his sights on the best defensive lines in the NFL.

The Falcons have fared pretty well in these rankings, finishing in the top half of the league in every category so far. The defensive line, with all the question marks, is one group I am very curious about heading into this season.

Hit the jump to see how the Falcons ranked among the NFC South and how they’ve done as a team versus the rest of the league.

Another top half finish for the Falcons has them showing up at #14 in Cole’s rankings.

14. Atlanta Falcons: End John Abraham is not quite what he used to be, but he’s still a great speed rusher off the edge. The problem is that the Falcons don’t have enough interior help to get Abraham into more pass-rush situations. That was particularly true after they lost rookie tackle Peria Jerry last year to injury. If Jerry returns, he makes everybody better, even end Jamaal Anderson, a guy who is keeping his head just barely above water. Barely!

The Falcons defensive line is rated behind only New Orleans in the NFC South.

8. New Orleans Saints: The Saints don’t have one defensive lineman who makes you say “wow,” but they have a lot of very good players, such as end Will Smith, tackle Sedrick Ellis and versatile backup Anthony Hargrove. The group is diverse enough that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams felt comfortable using a lot of 3-4 looks in the Super Bowl. Former Bears end Alex Brown joins the defending champs this season, replacing Bobby McCray, and should be a moderate upgrade.

The Buccaneers figure to be stout against the run.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OK, I have to admit right from the start that the Bucs don’t have an end who is worth mentioning (they have placeholders in Tim Crowder and Stylez G White), but you have to love what the Bucs did with their first two picks in the draft, taking tackle Gerald McCoy and then following up with Brian Price. If they can milk another year out of veteran Chris Hovan, at least the Bucs won’t get run over and through as they did last season (league-worst 158.2 yards per game). Furthermore, McCoy may have Warren Sapp-like impact in that he could make those around him much better, making it easier to find good ends.

The Panthers suffer the worst fate and are not only the worst of the NFC South but of the entire NFL.

32. Carolina Panthers: How the mighty have fallen. A few years ago, the Panthers had a brutally tough line featuring Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins. No, they have try-hard guy Tyler Brayton to go with a bunch of JAGs (Just A Guy) like Nick Hayden, Louis Leonard and Everette Brown. Rookie Greg Hardy has potential, but he needs to get his head on straight.


Digging Deeper

Cole has ranked five position groups so far (QB, RB, WR, OL, DL) and I wanted to see how the teams are stacking up cumulatively. Using his rankings for each position we can see which teams are well-rounded and which ones could be in for a long season.

We start with the entire NFL:

With the top running backs and defensive lineman, the Minnesota Vikings are the leader in the clubhouse. The Falcons are sixth overall with a strong showing by their offensive line. Talent-wise, if the Falcons can say they are in the top six in the league, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Now on to the NFC teams only:

We know about the Vikings but the Saints and the Cowboys are the only teams currently rated higher than Atlanta. Fourth in the NFC should mean a home playoff game but Atlanta plays in the South and not the cakewalk NFC West.

And speaking of the South:

The Saints have received higher ratings than the Falcons in every position except running back. The Panthers and Buccaneers have only been ranked in the top half of the league once (Carolina RBs) and don’t appear to offer much of a threat in 2010. Or do they? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.

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