There was no news sweeter for Falcons fans than hearing John Abraham was re-signing with Atlanta. For over half a decade Abraham has been the heart and soul of the pass rush, and it seems there's no slowing down the thirty-four year old after yet another stellar season in which he finished with 9.5 sacks and 4 force fumbles. There was a very real concern that if he were to leave via free agency the Falcons wouldn't have the ammunition in the draft to acquire an elite defensive end to replace Abraham, and Mario Williams placed himself out of Atlanta's financial range when he signed with Buffalo. All is well though, and he's locked in to the RDE spot in 2012.
This brings us to the extremely disappointing Ray Edwards who didn't have the expected impact in 2011 when he arrived as a free agent. Folllowing two fantastic seasons in Minnesota playing across from Jared Allen the thought was that Edwards could be plugged in with Abraham and the Falcons could see similar results- creating one of the best DE pairings in the NFL. Unfortunately Edwards was battling a knee injury for much of 2011, and as such he managed to play a full 16 game season, but had very little impact with only 3.5 sacks. For now he's still a lock to start at LDE, that's not changing due to one bad season; he's still the Falcons second most talented defensive end, but he'll really need to lift his game this season.
As the backups Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury are two of the better situational pass rushers in the NFL. While neither look to be three-down linemen, both have the ability to come in as needed and make an impact on the game. As backups they are now joined by 5th round pick Jonathan Massaquoi, who will need some work before he can become a situational rusher, let alone a starter. Massaquoi has a ton of potential, but looks quite stiff as an athlete and will need to loosen up if he hopes to be an impact player.
At defensive end here is how the players project for the 2012 season: