Defensive Line Breakdown


Aug 19, 2011; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach Ray Hamilton instructs his players during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I talked about the secondary looking real good at training camp.  I received a request to talk about the defensive line and because it’s a slow news cycle, I took up the opportunity.

The defensive line looked like a big question mark for several season in the past.  John Abraham was a very good pass rusher, and one of the only ones, but the Falcons released him this offseason.  It made the line an even bigger question mark

Malliciah Goodman looks like a very solid lineman that can get the job done at the next level, he may even be able to start by the time the season rolls around, but there are still so many questions.  I’m here to try and answer them.

At defensive End, Osi Umenyiora is the leader with 2 Super Bowl rings.  He’s younger than Abraham was and he can definitely produce major pressure outside.  With a new environment and a good coaching staff, he’ll be able to produce to the best of his ability.  To keep him fresh, however, he will be a situational pass rusher.  For all other situations, I believe Malliciah will get his chance to prove he can be an every down lineman.  Cliff Matthews may be the man there, but there is some speculation that he is gaining weight to make a position switch to Defensive Tackle.

One the other side, we have a little inconsistency.  Kroy Biermann is the starter.  He’s not a very great pass rusher since he primarily uses a bull rush and can simply get overpowered.  Where he lacks in pass rush, he makes up for in versatility.  He’ll be all over the field.  Behind him will be Jonathan Massaquoi.  He’s a developing speed rusher and I have high expectations for him.  He will get his fair share of snaps this season and I would expect him to make at least 4 sacks.  If Biermann get’s 4 or 5 while splitting snaps between Jon, that’s 8-9 sacks from the same position.  4 sacks each doesn’t sound impressive, but put together will be a significant improvement from last year.

From the inside you have Jonathan Babineaux, possibly the most underrated tackle in the league.  He was only second last year in most tackles for loss.  He’s a truck.  Rotating with him will be Corey Peters, who has produced to a pretty decent standard being able to put pressure on quarterbacks and stopping the run.  Next in line is Peria Jerry who shouldn’t really be on the team at all.  I believe that if the rumors are true about Cliff Matthews transferring to tackle, he’ll take over snaps that Jerry got.  Throw in Travian Robertson who may have a similar breakout year as Vance Walker from last year and the tackle position may not be all that bad.

I’m not going to say that the DL is a particular strength, but I won’t say that it’s any worse than it was last year.  Keep in mind that last year was Mike Nolan’s first year with Atlanta.  He surely saw some problems and made some adjustments to fix them.  Not to mention a lot of the run stopping and pass rushing woes may be helped out with a more experienced Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent.

I still think that the stat machines will project Atlanta in the bottom half when it comes to yards per play which many fans and pickers like to look at more than points per game or turnovers, but in the categories that do matter, the categories that Atlanta was already ranking in the top of last year, the Falcons will be even more improved when coming up with big time stops.