Dec 29, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Alex Okafor (80) reacts against the Oregon State Beavers during the second half of the Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome. Texas beat Oregon State 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
The wild free agency start has subsided to a downright boring lull. The Atlanta Falcons took care of team personnel with the signing of Steven Jackson as the Burner’s replacement the lone adventure outside the nest. Adding the battering Ram along with the inking of Sam Baker and the invigorating return of Tony G., the offense is solidified to repeat , if not improve, the 2012 average of 27 points per game when considering the line in front of Ryan is going into the season a little more stable than last year, Jaquizz’s involvement in the offense is no longer a work in progress and Dirk knows what works best and what needs a good camp,
like getting more from the slot which I consider the secret weapon given the talent elsewhere Matty Ice can distribute the ball to.
With the moves just mentioned completed and the draft just a little over a month away, it appears, actually more a sure bet, that the Defensive line will take center stage and the spotlight as the Falcon brass must address Mike Nolan’s groups largest area of concern, especially with the departure of John Abraham and recently of Vance Walker. I’m hoping the talks with Grimes are still positive, but the defensive line needs a pass rush, a run stuffer, depth and an injection of youth to be a force this coming season and years beyond. Creating pressure and disrupting timing in the trenches is the key to any defense, no matter how good the linebackers or secondary are. Biermann is solid wherever Nolan sets him, Peters needs to have a full healthy season, Babs and Jerry may have playing time dwindle, and Massaquoi, Matthews and Robertson are on the fence this year. Slowly brought along and limited in 2012, they each got a taste of the big show and now must work at stepping into larger roles. (My guess is two out of these three make significant progress to more playing time.) This group addresses the youth and depth pieces earlier mentioned rather nicely, but where do the birds get the run stuffing brute and pass rushing, havoc wreaking menace the defense must evolve around ?
The free agents left are in Abrahams class and although all would be a welcome addition, the pressing major need is larger than what an ageing veteran can present over a long season. Fortunately for the Falcons, they have all their draft picks this year, and six picks in the top 200. With some compensatory picks added in the seventh round it will be interesting to see what Dimitroff, Smith and company can obtain with eleven picks at their disposal. I’m sure a third or one of the two fourth round picks may go to a tight end, and a later round to a offensive lineman, but I think seven out of the eleven picks are ticketed for the defense.
Could they wrap a couple of picks in a package and move up to get one of Kipers top five ? (Moore from Texas A&M, Werner from Florida State, Mingo from LSU, Jordan from Oregon or Ansah out of BYU.)
The draft splash move up to get Julio paid off nicely. Defensive team turn ?
They could stay fixed and take a couple of talents, the second and third rounds could bring guys like Alex Okafor of Texas, 6’ 4” and 261lbs., who had a solid 2012 season and senior bowl who doesn’t get pushed around. Margus Hunt from SMU is a huge 6’ 8” 277 lb. athlete who had some impressive stats at the combine, and then there is Datone Jones, 6’ 4” 280 lbs. out of UCLA, who had nineteen tackles for a loss and has size to be versatile on the inside of the line also. Like having pitchers in baseball, you can never have too many defensive lineman to evaluate and utilize. Nolan could also go to a rotation of assorted sets, and he’s smart enough to plan an attack to the quarterback with more than just an outside end rush. Stopping the run, stuffing the middle and adding muscle up front are the main wish for any defensive
coach because that makes the opposition one dimensional, and Atlanta fans know the pain of having
that weakness exploited. The Falcons need to stop the likes of San Frans Gore, Tampa’s Martin,
Washington’s Morris and Seattles Lynch. They would probably prefer and benefit when playing the
likes of Cam Newton and Russell Wilson to have them contained and forced to throw than scrambling for first downs in a third and nine situation. A couple of young athletic bigs for Nolan and his defensive line and this Falcon team will have filled the teams largest hole from last year- run stoppage.
There is no defense to not upgrade the defense in the draft to come. Give Nolan whatever he wants T.D.