In the offseason, the Falcons had a major decision to make: do we re-sign MLB Curtis Lofton, the play caller of our defense, regardless of how much he asks for? Or should we only keep him if we can get him for the right price?
Lofton asked for a tidy sum of money, which was more than the Falcons were willing to give him. It wasn’t for lack of respect– Lofton had been a very good linebacker since the Falcons drafted him in 2008. But with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in the fold, Lofton was expected to be a two-down linebacker. Not because he wasn’t athletic, or couldn’t handle playing three consecutive downs. It was because while he’s a smart player and a solid tackler, he was just less than average in pass coverage, the down in which teams pass more often than any other down. Some call it the money down, and the Falcons weren’t going to give a lot of that to a player they didn’t expect to be on the field for third downs.
The rest is history. The Saints signed him to a 5-year, $27.5 Million dollar contract. New Orleans fans gloated that they had stolen our MLB from us. Falcons fans just hoped that it wouldn’t come back to bite us. So far in 2012, the Saints are the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL, and are that with a bullet. And guess who is still experiencing problems in pass coverage? You guessed it, Curtis Lofton.
I don’t know for sure if the Falcons will take advantage of Curtis Lofton’s inability to play in coverage, but I know that they are certainly capable of doing so. Let’s face it, the Saints pass rush isn’t particularly good unless the blitz everyone under the sun the way they did against Philadelphia. Michael Vick has never been known for his expert ability to diagnose and beat a blitz. Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has done an excellent job of that.
Let’s speak hypothetically for a moment. Let’s suppose the Saints try to rush four player and drop seven in coverage, something DC Steve Spagnuolo really likes to do, and that it doesn’t work. He’s going to start blitzing different players. One player he probably won’t rush would be Lofton. So in that situation you would likely see Lofton playing a shallow zone coverage against Tony Gonzalez, perhaps the greatest tight end of all time. We’ve already noted that he has struggled against normal tight ends. Imagine what Gonzalez could set him up for.
It remains to bee seen what could happen. Maybe Lofton figures it out for a game and does a great job. The point is that that hasn’t been his track record to this point. And if there was one player at this point this season who could easily take advantage of Lofton’s coverage skills, it would be Matt Ryan and his receiving corps.