What You Need to Know about the Atlanta Falcons Defensive Line

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What You Need to Know about the Atlanta Falcons Defensive Line
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Last season the Atlanta Falcons had one of the most inconsistent defensive lines in the NFL. Statistically the Falcons ranked 11th in the NFL in sacks with 34. This stat however does not tell the real story. The reason is that 16 of those sacks belonged to one man, John Abraham.

On top of that there were only two other players on the team with more then two sacks and only six players in total with more then one sack and one of those players has left the Falcons. (Grady Jackson) In addition to the poor pass rushing the Falcons' also were poor against the run.

The Falcons ranked 25th in run defense. They also ranked fourth in yards allowed per carry at 4.9. This was not a defensive line that could support a playoff caliber team, but that has changed. Well hopefully.

During this off season the Falcons drafted two defensive linemen who have the ability to contribute right away, but more importantly the younger defensive linemen have had a chance to grow.

According to multiple reports Jamaal Anderson has been working extremely hard this off season in order to not only break out, but to prove that he is not a bust. But is that enough I mean the question still persists.

Will the Falcons' defensive line be better in the up coming 2009 season or not? In order to answer the question I will go over the defensive line's personnel. 
Starting Left End: Jamaal Anderson. Since the first day Anderson was drafted he has been under a great deal of pressure to succeed. These expectations however are justified.

Anderson was the eight overall pick in the 2007 draft and as everyone knows when you are drafted that high you must succeed. In Anderson's short career he has only registered a pitiful two sacks in 31 game. Both of which came in the 2008 season.

Now there have been arguments that although Anderson is not a great pass rusher he is an above average run stopper which is true, but when you are drafted eighth overall you have to be more then above average.

I do however expect this to be Anderson's break out year. As I mentioned earlier he has been working amazingly hard this off season and he is very much aware that the Falcons are getting tired of him not performing. 
Starting Defensive Tackle: Jonathan Babineaux. Last season we saw Babineaux develop into one of the better tackles in the NFL. He recorded four sacks in 2008 which was a slight improvement over his 2007 season.

What is strange about Babineaux though is that although his playing time went up his total tackles decreased. This is not something to worry about though, because he is by far the most versatile lineman the Falcons have. Babineaux is the only lineman who consistently played every situation.

I expect Babineaux to continue his growth as a play making tackle while still making the plays we expect of him. 
Starting Nose Tackle: Peria Jerry. Jerry is a rookie who should be able to contribute from day one. Jerry weighs around 300 pounds and will have to play big in order to play defensive tackle effectively in the NFL.

Jerry has very active hands and can hold his own in double teams which is one of the main reasons the Falcons drafted him. Jerry will also provide a huge boost to the interior pass run. He has amazing feet for his size and can disrupt the pocket from the inside. I believe that Jerry will be the key to the Falcons' run defense in 2009.

If he slips up there is truly not another space eater behind him, which could very well mean another mediocre year for the Falcons' run defense. 
Starting Right End: John Abraham. Abraham has been one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL. In the past two years  he has totaled 26.5 sacks. One of the main reasons for his success has been his health.

After years of injuries Abraham has finally been able to become the elite rusher we all knew he was. Abraham's role will not change much in the upcoming year. He will be rested on most running plays and be put in on obvious passing situations.

Coach Smith believes this is the best way to keep their best defender healthy. Abraham will more then likely break double digits in sacks yet again, but his biggest contribution will be helping the other defensive ends develop. 
Key Reserve One: Chauncey Davis. Davis is a player who can fill in at either end spot when ever he is needed to. Davis was signed to a new contract this off season which could either indicate a lack of trust in Anderson or firm belief in Davis either way though Davis will be a Falcon for a few more years.

The question is will he start or will he continue his back up role. Last season Davis recorded four sacks to tie with Babineaux for second most sacks on the roster. This of course was done while only starting one game.

Davis is still basically the defensive lines' insurance policy. He will get at least three sacks and could very well blossom into an elite rusher.
Key Reserve Two: Kroy Biermann. A lesser known player on the Falcons' roster. Kroy was drafted last year to provide depth and pass rush help and well he did exactly that. Kroy recorded 21 tackles and registered two sacks in limited play.

This is decent production considering he was a fifth round pick last season. There is still a lot of room for Kroy to improve, but considering his weight (247 pounds) he will have to play the right side his whole career which means his versatility is limited.

Kroy will more then likely duplicate his sack total from last season which is all you can really ask from a fifth round pick.
Key Reserve Three: Lawrence Sidbury Jr. The second rookie lineman the Falcons drafted. Sidbury like Kroy was brought in to bring added depth to the Falcons while contributing in pass rush situations. Many people believe that Sidbury could be the heir to Abraham's starting job in a few years.

For now however all we have on Sidbury is speculation. He has good size and can create solid space with his arms to help him rush the quarterback. I do see him getting a solid amount of playing time considering the Falcons' defensive line rotation.
On a whole I would say that the Falcons should have a significantly better defensive line this year then they did in 2008. There is a solid mix of veterans and youngsters and enough depth to patch any real problems that arise.

The improved secondary will help the defensive line as well with its increased talent and experience. The only concern with the line is the play of Jerry I believe how he goes so goes the team.
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