Smith likes the USC linebackers

USC linebacker Kaluka Maiva puts a hit on Arizona State's Terry Richardson.

USC linebacker Kaluka Maiva puts a hit on Arizona State's Terry Richardson.

Dana Point, Calif. — Falcons coach Mike Smith and the rest of the NFC coaches met with the media Wednesday morning at the NFL Owners meeting.
Smith, the Associated Press reigning coach of the year, was a popular guy.

Reporters from Detroit wanted to know what went into the Falcons decision to draft Matt Ryan, how they scouted him, what kind of workout he went through and want he likes to eat for breakfast.
They were doing their due diligence on Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford.

Rey Maualuga having a bad hair day.

Rey Maualuga having a bad hair day.

Smith also talked about the linebackers for USC, who are eligible for the draft. At least two of them could be on the board when the Falcons select with the 24th pick in the draft.

Clay Matthews Jr. dishing out some pain.

Clay Matthews Jr. dishing out some pain.

Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga are being projected to go early in the first round. Clay Matthews Jr., who’s father played for the Falcons, and Kaluka Maiava will be available at 24. Maiava is not generally considered a first round pick and could be taken later in the draft.

“They are very impressive,” Smith said. “There are four guys that are definitely going to have an opportunity to play in the NFL. It’s been well documented that there are going to be some guys that get drafted very early.”

Smith seems some similarities in the group of USC linebackers.

“I think there is one common theme that these guys have and that’s they enjoy playing the game of football,” Smith said. “That’s very obvious when you watch those guys on tape. They play with a lot of intensity. They play with a lot of passion. They have different sizes. They run differently, but the one thing that they do is that they play, very, very hard.”

The Falcons are rebuilding their linebacking corps after Keith Brooking (Dallas) and Michael Boley (New York Giants) left during free agency.

Which one of the USC linebackers would you like to see the Falcons take?

160 comments Add your comment


March 25th, 2009
12:56 pm

Maualuga and Cushing will probably be gone by the 24th pick, but Mathews wound be a great pick, although I would love to see TD take Sean Smith the hybrid CB/SS with this pick. Maiava has good speed and intensity, but at 6-0, 230lbs. I think he’s not an every down player and may be a good pickup in the 5th round. Go Birds!


March 25th, 2009
1:06 pm

Green Tea

March 25th, 2009
1:14 pm

Which one? Maualuga, that’s a no brainer. Never happen though.

here’s my question D’Led, where do you think he’ll go in the draft and what would the Falcons potentially have to do to get him??


March 25th, 2009
1:16 pm

James Laurinaitis…………….from Ohio State.
Just as physical and talented but more leadership qualities than all 3 USC’s players combined.

Michael W.

March 25th, 2009
1:17 pm

Unless Maualuga can move outside and play either SAM or WIL, I don’t see the Falcons picking him. They’ve got their MLB in Lofton, and they need LBs on the outside. I don’t think Maualuga can move outside.

mil mascaras

March 25th, 2009
1:21 pm

Let me guess. You are an Ohio State fan/grad. Laurenaitis is going to be a nice pickup for someone who is looking for a technically proficient tackler/leader. He is not at all in the same class speed wise with the SC guys, I don’t think. Maybe his dad could teach him how to put on pregame makeup, though.


March 25th, 2009
1:23 pm

I like Clay Matthews Jr. definitely a sleeper in this draft. Greatest compliment came from Pete Carroll, he felt if Matthews was playing more in the Oregon St. game they would have beaten Oregon St.


March 25th, 2009
1:28 pm

1- Cushing
2- Matthews
3- Look somewhere else


March 25th, 2009
1:29 pm

New England is notorious for not wanting the first round pick. We should trade our second and third round for NE 23rd pick and we should take two of the USC linebackers.


March 25th, 2009
1:31 pm

We shouldn’t be taking ANY LB in the first round. We’re actually pretty solid at LB. But we have glaring weaknesses at DT, S, and even DE with JA’s tendency to tweak his groin and get in for only about half the plays. Our inability to get pressure from the front four on the QB’s of good teams was our numero uno problem last year. We have GOT to get a big improvement there, or we will be lucky to win 10.


March 25th, 2009
1:32 pm

SI.COM – ” Matthews shows inconsistent skills as a run defender due to his inability to take on bulky offensive lineman at the point of attack”.
If stopping the run is our first priority, then I’d pass on matthews. I’m leaning toward DT – Ron Brace, Ziggy Hood or TE – Pettigrew. We MUST stop the run first and break out the grits!


March 25th, 2009
1:32 pm

I understand if we taken an OLB in the first round, but is anyone not concerned about the lack of a safety? Lawyer is still a FA, bring him back! He may not be great at this point, but starting a rookie at so many key defensive positions is very concerning, especially without a big DT up front..

D Money

March 25th, 2009
1:35 pm

Sintim our of Virginia. I believe all of them will be gone before 24


March 25th, 2009
1:36 pm

Surely not Maualuga. Why would we go with an ILB & put him at OLB? I’m convinced part of the reason Brooking was released was the fact that he was a liability in coverage. I’ve got a feeling Maualuga & even Cushing would be the same story.

Willie Coyote

March 25th, 2009
1:37 pm

Best available defensive player would be just fine. One who will help the pass rush would be preferable.


March 25th, 2009
1:37 pm

Not sure who I want the Falcons to take, but I know I don’t want Maualuga, he may turn out to be ok, but I don’t want players on my team that scores a 7 on the Wonderlic test. Lbs need to be smart, be able to decipher whether is run, or pass. Look at Vick he scored low and was a GREAT talent and I mean GREAT, but just could not make a good decision on or off the field. Same with Vince Young and many other players. I trust that the brass with the Falcons’ know this and trust them to make good decisions.

D Money

March 25th, 2009
1:40 pm

Wes, I think we’ll definitely get one in the second round because there won’t be any at 24 worth a first round pick that fits our system.


March 25th, 2009
1:44 pm

I’m with you Greg…
The Falcons are NOT going to take a LB first. If they were I can bet you that Smith would not have come out and said “we” like these guys.
The Falcons and Demitroff will fill the biggest need in the first round and LB isn’t it.

G State Ben

March 25th, 2009
1:45 pm

Wow, you can weed out the people that know football from this blog.

Maualuga and Cushing will be gone. Matthews will be available but you don’t want him at 24. You have a steady diet of LBs in this draft and Maualuga and Laurinaitis plays MLB which you just drafted Lofton to play that position in 2008.

The Falcons will look hard at a Larry English, Clint Sintim and Matthews as a possibility in the 2nd round if available or even a Marcus Freeman from Ohio State in the 3rd.

1st rounder will be best player available and I don’t see that being a LB. TE, CB or S will be the order I’d project.


March 25th, 2009
1:45 pm

Jonathan, why not a LB we need help everywhere on D. and you start with the front 7, that makes the DB’s so much better.


March 25th, 2009
1:51 pm

We have LB’s that can play right now. If they choose to add to that position and they will, it will be later. Like it’s been said earlier by some of the other post, the Falcons have way bigger questions at say DT, S and DE hybrid LB (English).
Please no one think that we need a TE in the first round. TE is not a position we have to excel at, yes it is a great option for our QB but not a 1st round issue.


March 25th, 2009
1:51 pm

If we have to pick a OLB in the first…Cushing may still be there in late first round (yahoo.sports has him going at #26).
SI.COM – “tough, hard-nosed linebacker with exceptional skills as a run defender who makes a ton of ‘bang-bang’ plays. In coverage, he’s solid in all aspects and plays with outstanding awareness”
Ok – brace, hood or cushing will be fine!


March 25th, 2009
1:58 pm

Jonathan you and I are in complete agreement that we do NOT NEED TO DRAFT a TE in the 1st rd, even if the draft was not deep at that position which is is this year. I agree we have some talent at LB that a lot of people don’t know about, but if there is an OLB at the 24th pick that TD thinks is a game changer we need to take him, even though most would agree that Safety is one of the most glaring needs we have.

draft 101

March 25th, 2009
2:01 pm

take pettigrew if he is available. then our offense will just about be complete. If not take alphonso from wake, or the next best corner our secondary is needy. The LB corp is better than what most people think.


March 25th, 2009
2:07 pm

Falcons, do not take a LB with this pick. Plenty to choose from in later rounds. Get a big, head hunting, physical corner who will make a difference…….with 4.4 speed


March 25th, 2009
2:12 pm

I’m not a scout by any means, however I do read a lot and I watch every CFB game that I can. I agree, if there is a LB at 24 that Dimitroff considers to be a “game changer” then by all means get us a “game changer”. I believe in him and his decision reigns over mine, I was just stating my opinion…I just do not think that Matthews is that guy. I think he was good by association with the great help that team had around him.
Honestly, I really do not like our pick at 24, its seems to be a really tough place in this particular draft…


March 25th, 2009
2:14 pm

Maiava’s a little on the small side. No where close to first round material, but if the falcons pass on linebackers in the first , I wouldn’t object to him as a mid rounder.Clay Matthews would make my day. Looks like Mauluga and Dimitroff use the same barber.


March 25th, 2009
2:16 pm

TO JB, man if there was a CB like that he would be gone. Besides, there is not a first rd CB in the drart, jenkings is only a frist rouder for lack of better options this year.


March 25th, 2009
2:19 pm

To add to my last post, I say this not because I am so GREAT scout, but from what all the “So called experts” think and Mel Kipper and a few others on ESPN seem to be reasonable with their thoughts and opinions, these guys seem to think the CB class is rather weak this year.

draft 101

March 25th, 2009
2:24 pm



March 25th, 2009
2:25 pm



Stirg d'Nahsif

March 25th, 2009
2:38 pm

I say draft neither. Here’s why: One, we already have Robert James, Coy Wire and Stephen Nicholas to compete for outside linebacker positions. Do we really need to make the linebacker position a priority at twenty-four? Considering our current roster at linebacker, I think we can afford to draft elsewhere; same goes for d-line and cornerback. Secondly, if you’re going to draft for a position that (I’m sure you’ll disagree) is set at linebacker, then draft a multi-functional defenseman like a Larry English, who can play defensive end and linebacker. That way, everybody get to play.

To answer the question, I think Larry English would be the best recruit. Pick 24, however, should be spent on the best safety/defensive back that fit our needs…or Pettigrew. Defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends will remain in the draft and good players will be available in later rounds.

Big Ray

March 25th, 2009
2:39 pm

D. Ledbetter,

Nice blog article!


Read your research on Dimitroff when he was with New England. Excellent work, man. Excellent work. That does give some insight into this guy. He gets a chance this year to prove that last year’s successful drafting was not a fluke.

Well, I wouldn’t be unhappy with Cushing OR Matthews.

But if one of the top DTs fell to us at that spot…

I think the question becomes what you can/need to upgrade the most in the first round. If we can upgrade or fortify DT in the second or third rounds, and a good OLB is available in the first, then go for it. If it’s the other way around, then do it the other way around.

The problem is, we still could use an upgrade in the secondary. So where does that fit in all of this? Personally, I wasn’t happy to see Foxworth go, but I’m not willing to believe it was a fatal mistake. An improvement up front will help our secondary. There are some good secondary players available in the draft. But I’m not sure there is going to be anybody at CB or SS available at the 24th pick, that’s worth a pick that high. But what do I know?

I know I’m not worried about Dimitroff and Smith making some good decisions. I know I’m not worried about the guys we have getting better (like Ryan). I’m not throwing all caution and concern to the winds, but I also don’t think there is reason for gloom, doom, and despair.

I certainly hope not. The only thing worse than losing is listening to all the same naysayers, pi$$ ants, and other malcontents that we listen to every year (even last year, which made no sense at all).

Big Ray

March 25th, 2009
2:50 pm


There is some merit to taking anybody that looks to be a true game-changer. Since we’re not scouts, we probably don’t know all the “signs” of that in a player. And while I agree that Kiper pretty much knows his stuff, I don’t take his word for law. Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be a good deal of GOOD depth in the draft this year when it comes to DBs. I think we’ll draft a tight end. Pettigrew might be hard to pass up if he falls to us. But that does start a domino effect on what we do as far as picking defenders.

Glad I don’t have this job. We’d never get anything done. :)


So are you saying English is the best pick at #24 if we get a non-defensive back? Who’s your idea as a best bet for our #24 pick if we get a DB? We may or may not disagree on this, but I’m not seeing anybody at that position that presents more value for us as our first pick. But then, there’s no telling who falls to us either, though I wouldn’t count on somebody like Jenkins falling…

I’m just saying, I don’t know if there’s a DB at that pick that we can get, who has more of an impact for us on defense than other players at other positions. At least in my opinion, anyway. ;)


I agree. I wish we had a higher pick. But for now, we just don’t. Gonna have to find a way to make lemons out of lemonade. But, things could be worse. And they were, prior to the Cardinals getting to the Super Bowl. Because they did, we moved UP to the 24th pick. Still, it’s a tough spot…

Stirg d'Nahsif

March 25th, 2009
2:53 pm

Thanks, Big Ray. Anybody wondering what Ray is refering to, I posted this on an earlier blog:

I thought some of you guys would be interested in some information I’ve been researching the past couple of days. I was very interested in knowing what kind of players Thomas Dimitroff showed interest to, in the past. His subtle, but simple, resume include titles of NFL Scout, Area Scout, College Scout; and in 2002, he was hired by New England to be National Scout. Just after one year, the organization elevated his title to Director of College Scouting and he held that position from 2003-’07. That is where I began my research. Although TD was not general manager (not the final word), I’m certain his suggestions and opinions of draftees and players were most relevant. So, I’m suggesting that TD had a hand in evaluating, interviewing, drafting, researching and/or recruiting these names. You can draw your own conclusion, after you consider the player’s status today.

1 13 Ty Warren DT Texas A&M
2 36 Eugene Wilson CB Illinois***
2 45 Bethel Johnson WR Texas A&M
4 117 Dan Klecko DT Temple
4 120 Asante Samuel CB Central Florida***
5 164 Dan Koppen C Boston
6 201 Kliff Kingsbury QB Texas Tech
7 234 Spencer Nead TE BYU***
7 239 Tully Banta-Cain LB California
7 243 Ethan Kelley DT Baylor

1 21 Vince Wilfork DT Miami***
1 32 Benjamin Watson TE UGA***
2 63 Marquise Hill DE LSU (Died 052807)
3 95 Guss Scott S Florida
4 128 Dexter Reid S N. Carolina
4 128 Cedric Cobbs RB Arkansas
5 164 P.K. Sam WR FSU
7 233 Christian Morton CB FSU

1 32 Logan Mankins OG Fresno State
3 84 Ellis Hobbs CB Iowa State***
3 100 Nick Kaczur OT Toledo
4 133 James Sanders S Fresno State***
5 170 Ryan Claridge LB UNLV
7 230 Matt Cassel QB Southern Cal.***
7 255 Andy Stokes TE William Penn

1 21 Laurence Maroney RB Minnesota***
2 36 Chad Jackson WR Florida
3 86 David Thomas TE Texas
4 106 Garrett Mills TE Tulsa
4 118 Stephen Gostkowski K Memphis
5 136 Ryan O’Callaghan OT California
6 191 Jeremy Mincey DE Florida
6 205 Dan Stevenson OG Notre Dame
6 206 Le-Kevin Smith DT Nebraska
7 229 Willie Andrews DB Baylor

1 24 Brandon Meriweather S Miami
4 127 Kareem Brown DE Miami
5 171 Clint Oldenburg OT Colorado State
6 180 Justin Rogers LB SMU
6 202 Mike Richardson CB Notre Dame
6 208 Justise Hairston RB Central Conn. State
6 209 Corey Hilliard OG Oklahoma State
7 211 Oscar Lua LB USC
7 247 Mike Elgin C Iowa

Now, I’m certain that most of these names were recruited as situational players. Furthermore, teams draft on need and I’m sure a number of players were drafted, during TD’s tenure, based on positions that were vacant on the roster. Nonetheless, TD was responsible for researching and evaluating the best player to fill those needs. This entry simply gives us an idea of how TD operates. Again, you can draw your own conclusion. What I noted was the type of schools he recruited from and the number of late rounders that eventually rose to national recognition. In conclusion, I decided to shut-up and let TD, and staff, do their thing. What do I know?


March 25th, 2009
2:56 pm

Falcoons in good shape

DL: Davis, Anderson, Babineaux, Abraham, Lewis, Biermann,
LB: Nicholas, Lofton, Peterson, Gilbert, Wire, James
CB: Grimes, Houston, Jackson, Irons, Hutchins
S: Coleman, DeCoud, Fudge

If the season started tommorrow we could win with those guys, we did it all year. Certainly, we’d like to improve, but Mike Peterson was a addition. And I think everybody has DeCoud penciled in as a starter at Safety.

Clearly, the secondary is a concern. Taller more physical corners are in order. Grimes is spunky and plays his heart out, but he’s a backup. Houston has uber-athleticism but he’s still only 5′7, so go figure. Chevis is a step slow. And both Irons, Hutchins coming off leg injuries. CB is the priority. Problem is draft not deep in secondary, especially at CB, pickings are slim.

Safety is next biggest concern. We need depth behind Coleman and DeCoud, could get that in FA however. But I really like L. Delmas, W. Moore, Hamlin.

The DL needs strethening. Abraham is injury prone. Anderson is an underachiever. Lewis is coming off major injury. Davis and Biermann are solid contributors, but they need a young anchor. Ron Brace or Fili Moaloa could be available Rd. 2/3. Brandon Williams, 6′5, undersized sackmaster, TxTech, could be a worthwhile project in Rd. 4/5.

Stirg d'Nahsif

March 25th, 2009
3:10 pm

Ray, if you’re asking me about CB, then I agree with you. There are no CBs worth taking at 24 when, assumably, all the good CBs will be taken by then (Sean Smith made the exception). If you’re asking me about safety, then I like Chung, Chip Vaughn, Kevin Ellison (USC), Emanuel Cook (South Car.).

We can use 24 for a number of players (its such an awkward position to pick from). I think at 24 we choose the best player on the board that fits one of our needs at safety or the front seven. I’d even consider Pettigrew for 24, simply because his position is a need and there is no other player with his calibre.


March 25th, 2009
3:14 pm

G State Ben…… The question was which one do you refer, nothing about who will be there at 24. Maulauga is the best of the 4 imo-yeah buddy we know he plays inside ????. I wouldnt take a LB in the 1st unless Maybin fell thru the cracks.

I know that TD and Smitty are blowing smoke anyway. I would take Hood if he’s there, Brace wont be there when we pick at 55. we need DT/NT -we can pick up Roy miller in the later rounds …..I keep getting the feeling that pettigrew will be the pick, why pick a LB in the first when Freeman and Follette will be just as good.


March 25th, 2009
3:20 pm

Jeez man, this blogg eats post like that kite eating tree on Charlie Brown

[...] AJC Source >> Atlanta Falcons Blogs Posted March 25th, 2009 in Atlanta Falcons Blogs. [...]


March 25th, 2009
3:23 pm

GUys, remember, no CB or Saftey will have a shot at a good career without some strong pass rush. We’re better off getting some monsters on the line and at LB and our backfield will be able to heep up.


March 25th, 2009
3:26 pm

First and foremost lets deal with the fascination with Laurinaitis, on second thought, lets not, please save the Brian Bosworth and Audray Bruce dreams for the detroit lions, as falcons fans, we have been there and done that. Back to the draft, if a safety is not available that warrants a 1st round pick, I say go after Pettigrew and continue to build the defense with the remaining draft picks, there won’t be a Defensive lineman that is worthy of a first round pick in this spot and the only other option is to trade the pick for more picks, hopefully another 2nd rounder, but at 24 that would be a stretch. Pettigrew may seem crazy considering the state of the “D”, but considering the state of the “D” and what probably will be available, he would be the best option unless a trade happens. If the falcons can trade for an extra 2nd round pick in order to secure a good safety and Defensive tackle, I’m all for it, if not Pettigrew seems to be a better option than the reach for Cushing, Matthews, English, or Johnson.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 25th, 2009
3:32 pm

Good start today. Rather impressive bloggers. You all are HOT!!! At the Long Beach City/Snopp Doggy Dogg International Airport. Heading back to the ATL. Spoke with Smitty today at length. We’ll be dropping more his insights later. But one of them I came away with is that Thomas DeCoud is UP !! The third round pick with get the first shot at Lawyer’s spot.

GREEN TEA: I posted my first mock draft last Friday. We’ll update/revise on Friday. I had Maualagu going to Jacksonville with the 8th pick. Cushing to the Redskins at 13. I had the Falcons passing on Matthews. He was then picked up by Baltimore with the 26th pick. My plan is to revise the Mock Draft every Friday up until the draft.

PETE: Do you live in Columbus or do they just call you Brutus Buckeye? I liked the Animal’s kid when I talked to him at the combine. But I’d stay away from OSU linebackers. Check the track record. Randy Grandishar and Pepper Johnson were the last REALLY good ones (Chris Spielman’s career was cut short). What’s the Hawk kid done for the Packers? Maybe he’ll fit better up there in the 3-4.

MARKO: You must be old school. Don’t like all that hair. TD’s spike hairdo is pretty cool.

Spud Webb

March 25th, 2009
3:44 pm

You can’t take a LB at this spot. DL or DB for sure.
You can LB’s later in the draft.


March 25th, 2009
4:00 pm

D.O.L.- Decoud is up for SS or FS?


March 25th, 2009
4:38 pm

anyone like the TE from Rice somewhere down order?


March 25th, 2009
4:38 pm

When they drafted Lofton last year one of the reasons why they said they got him is bc he can play both SAM & MLB, if that’s the case & Ray Maualuga drops like some analysis are saying that he will, Orlando do you see us taking him? If not why not?


March 25th, 2009
4:44 pm

Orlando, Safe to say I like everything about Dimitroff but the hairdo. you can tell him that a fellow Mt. biker thinks he has a serious case of helmet hair. If DeCoud gets first crack at SS then I hope Rashad Johnson’s on the radar for FS. I read that some scout did’nt like his open field tackling. Made me wonder which Rashad he’d been watching. the one that plays for Alabama does seem to have any problems in that area.


March 25th, 2009
4:47 pm

The only downside that i could see to taking Ray if he does somehow drop to us at 24 is that you might not want to more Curtis after just a year where he seemed to be getting comfortable at MLB & also my concern would be his quickness there, bc last year they had to sub him out on pass coverage downs & if your on the outside they can’t really hide you in coverage. But if we were to make that move & take Ray Maualuga I’m sure that they’d be confident that either him or Lofton had what it took to slide outside. But if that is the case & one of the 2 can, & we take Maualuga, lb has gone front a point of weakness going into the offseason, to NO DOUBT our strongest position!!! LB: Starters Nicholas, Lofton, Maualuga. & then Peterson, Gilbert, Wire, James as reserves, now that’s a dynamic LB core!

But again I wouldn’t go LB in the 1st round, but if they did so with Maualuga who in my mind will be a NO QUESTION pro bowler & left he could play alongside of Lofton, I’d feel better going LB in the 1st than under any other condition.

falcon fan

March 25th, 2009
5:29 pm

I would not be surprised to see the falcons trade down if the price is right to land some additional picks. Who knows what T.D. and smitty have up their sleeve.