As we move to the defensive side of the ball in this roster breakdown, you'll start noticing some potential problem areas or positions that lack depth. For the 2010 Falcons, producing a consistent pass rush week in and week out became somewhat of a struggle.
The Falcons ranked No. 22 in pass defense, along with being tied for No. 20 in sacks with 31. Of those 31 sacks, John Abraham had 13. Clearly the Falcons either need to find a pass-rushing partner for Abe via free agency, or else hope that someone like Biermann or Sidbury steps up their play in 2011.
Projected Depth Chart:
RIGHT DEFENSIVE END:
1. John Abraham
2. Lawrency Sidbury
3. Cliff Matthews
1. Jonathan Babineaux
2. Jamaal Anderson
3. Vance Walker
1. Corey Peters
2. Peria Jerry
LEFT DEFENSIVE END:
1. **Free Agent Signing**
2. Kroy Biermann
3. Chauncey Davis
Sure, 11 defensive linemen is a big number, but remember that Mike Smith is a huge fan of rotating defensive linemen to keep them fresh. The Falcons usually carry a high number.
Departures: None. The defensive line will not be losing anyone from the 2010 squad. However, it is worth noting that Abraham, Biermann, and Anderson will all be free agents in 2012. Hopefully the Falcons will have found Abe's successor before then.
New Arrivals: The Falcons picked up Cliff Matthews in the seventh round of this year's draft. Known for being an extremely hard working, high-effort player, Matthews is basically a "project" pick. He may develop into something more down the road, but for now he is simply depth at DE.
Beyond that, there have already been several reports of the Falcons targeting free agent DE Ray Edwards, who has made it very clear that he does not want to return to Minnesota. Besides Edwards, the free agent crop of defensive ends also includes UGA product Charles Johnson, who quietly recorded 12.0 sacks in 2010.
In addition, there have also been rumors of the Giants trading Osi Umenyiora, who is unhappy with his situation. Regardless, I hope and expect the Falcons to have signed another DE once free agency finally rolls around.
Outlook: Hopefully, the Falcons will find another effective pass rusher one way or another. Abe is 33 years old, and not getting any younger. Although I would absolutely love to see it, I would be very surprised if he matched his 2010 production.
However, there certainly are guys on the roster who have the potential to take some big steps forward in 2011. Kroy Biermann, while he only posted three sacks, actually performed much better than his numbers would indicate. 2009 fourth-round draft pick Lawrence Sidbury also is a guy who has the potential to make some contributions to the teams pass rush.
Moving to the inside, the Falcons got some great play out of defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux, who was a Pro Bowl snub in the eyes of many, and rookie Corey Peters. Peters, who got a majority of the snaps at D-tackle opposite of Babineaux, really stepped it up for the Falcons last season.
This is mostly because 2009 first round pick Peria Jerry was still limited by an ACL tear last season. It's often said that it really takes two years to fully recover from an ACL tear, so expect Jerry to receive more playing time in 2011.
Anderson is fortunately in the last year of his *wince* five year, $30 million contract. With so many DE's vying for playing time, Anderson will most likely spend more time at D-tackle this season, as his ability to defend to run is much better than his pass-rushing prowess.
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