Are the Falcons concerned about the defensive line?

Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas (54) discusses the importance of keeping fit with kids. (By PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas (54) discusses the importance of keeping fit with kids as part of the team's Hometown Huddle program. (By PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

THE BRANCH –  There are very few  guaranteed contracts in the National Football League.

You have to play to earn your pay.

Which defensive linemen should the Falcons sign?

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If you are not getting the job done, they’ll go out and find somebody else.

How else do you explain the Falcons taking a look at three veteran defensive linemen on Tuesday? It’s either that or they are just doing some due diligence in case  the defensive line suffers more injuries.

First round draft pick Peria Jerry was coming along nicely before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Atlanta defensive tackle Thomas Johnson (93) gets into the step aerobics part of the Hometown Huddle program. (PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM)

Atlanta defensive tackle Thomas Johnson (93) gets into the step aerobics part of the Hometown Huddle program. (PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM)

The unit has not recorded a sack since the season opener and has not stopped the run in the last two games.

The defensive line had to get the message loud and clear: get on the ball or we’ve got Paul Spicer, Antwan Lake and Orpheus Roye on speed dial.

None of the players were signed, according to agent Andrew Simms, who represents Lake. But there were all happy to come in, workout and get back in the mix in case some other team needs them.

Lake, 30,  is a former Falcon. He has played 79 games in the league including 12 starts. He played 29 games for the Falcons, with four starts in 2004 and 2005.

Lake is 6-4, 308. He’s also played with Detroit and New Orleans. He’s a defensive tackle.

Roye, 36, has played for Pittsburgh and Cleveland since 1996. He’s played defensive end and tackle. He has 180 games and 128 starts in the league.

Roye is 6-4, 320. He was a sixth round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1996 NFL draft.

He’s played a lot of defensive end for 3-4 teams and some tackle. He has 18.5 career sacks.

Spicer, 34, played for Falcons head coach Mike Smith in Jacksonville. He also played for Detroit. He has 28.5 career sacks.

Paul Spicer (Doug Benc, Getty Images)

Paul Spicer (Doug Benc, Getty Images)

He played at Saginaw Valley State in Michigan. (Aside: My uncle, the one who cheats at Madden, played some Inside Linebacker

Orpheus Roye

Orpheus Roye

at  ”The Valley” in the 80s!!! You know, who you are, Gerald!!)

Spicer is 6-4, 287 and has played both defensive ends. Late in his career he spent most of his time on the right side.

Here are the vital numbers on the defense through three games. It’s never too early to start checking them:

17.7 points – 8th in the league

381.3 yards – 30th in the league

Antwan Lake

Antwan Lake

245.3 passing yards – 27th in the league

136.0 rushing yards – 25th in the league.

Pretty sure those yardage numbers don’t make head coach Smith or defensive Brian VanGorder very happy.

THE TIME IS NOW:  You have to check out Jeff Schultz’ column looking ahead to this real bumpy stretch for the Falcons.

He found this stat:  “Four of the next seven opponents (Chicago, Dallas, Washington, New York Giants) will be coming off bye weeks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams coming off bye weeks in the past three seasons won nearly 60 percent of the time (57-38-1, .599).”

Other than defensive end John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux, Coach Smith has been reluctant to call them starters. He prefers to look at the group as the seven to eight man rotation that they use during the game.

What’s up with the defensive line? Are you more worried about the run defense, the pass rush or the secondary?

55 comments Add your comment

Jim of Hiram

October 7th, 2009
12:38 am

Well, since the run defense, the pass rush, AND the secondary has been “suspect” (and that’s being kind) the last two games, I’d say I’m worried about our whole defense, just like I have been ever since the first pre-season game. We need help….we need experience….so, I say bring in these veteran guys you’re talking about, and see what they can do. It couldn’t hurt! Who knows, maybe they can get these “nubies” going in the right direction for a change.
Jim.

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[...] Are the Falcons concerned about the defensive line? A There are very fewA guaranteed contracts in the National Football League. You have to play to earn your pay. [...]

savannah falcon

October 7th, 2009
6:54 am

We can use all of them! Our defensive line cannot get a sack!

Samuel

October 7th, 2009
7:21 am

If I had to sign one of the lineman that workout for the falcons, I’d probally take Lake. He is the younger player of the three. Also we might have to look at getting rid of Trey Lewis if he can’t go and be effective. Jamaal Anderson should be cut, he can’t rush the passer and he’s not that good with stopping the run. We seemed to put all our eggs in one basket with Peria now he’s injured and we seem to be back pedaling….

Jules

October 7th, 2009
8:08 am

It seems TD’s year 2 moves not quite working out as well on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of Jerry (now gone for year), who is making a difference … even starting for that matter from our defensive heavy draft class? Also, has anyone seen Tye Hill?

mountain_jim

October 7th, 2009
8:44 am

TD’s ignoring injury history in his pick 1 and 2 this year has bitten us back hard so far.. Who misses big Grady now?

Our DEs can’t get any sacks because the officials are allowing more holding against us without calling it than I have ever seen – more of the strategy to protect folks like Brady and the leagues ratings and dollars. The last 2 games officiated FOR New England should be investigated – it’s like Falcons and Ravens were the Washington Generals against them….

Brian Hunt

October 7th, 2009
8:57 am

The defense is improved at linebacker. Our LBs are leading the unit in tackles instead of the secondary, and that is a good sign that bodes well for the future. We haven’t seen big rushing plays with the DBs having to chase down the runner. They need more penetration up front to stop yielding 5+ yards per carry. They may want to start loading the box more on first down. The defensive line isn’t very talented outside of Abraham, and he isn’t an every down DE anymore.

PMC

October 7th, 2009
9:29 am

we knew the numbers weren’t going to be pretty because we don’t have elite corners who can man up. Zones get shredded by good QB’s.. They’ve been pretty good in the red zone but they are absolutely concerned about thier DL mainly the depth and the biggest thing they need to improve is being opportunistic. They have to capitalize on turnover opportunities.

I’m not concerned about the poor numbers because the personnel dictates the scheme right now. I’m just hoping they can have more games like that Miami game on defense.

I'm Gumby, dammit!!

October 7th, 2009
9:32 am

I’m not only concerned with the run defense, the pass rush, and the secondary, I’m concerned with BVG’s vanilla schemes. I think he needs to look up the terms “stunt” and “zone blitz” in the football dictionary. Belichek made adjustments at halftime, maybe we should have, too.

SirReal

October 7th, 2009
10:01 am

Is it the D or the D-Coord? I dont know a whole lot about BVG but between him and Smitty, we need to start BLITZING a little more…maybe we get the turnovers we need then? I dont know but I feel like our coaches dont have a lot of faith in our D yet…its still early but if we dont get a sack by week 6, we’re in trouble.

cajdawg

October 7th, 2009
10:04 am

We have heard for decades,including this current group of Dimistrov and Smith, that Falcons intend to get more “more physical” on defense.

WELL, STOP DRAFTING AND SIGNING DIMINUTIVE DEFENSIVE LINEMAN!!!!! Peria Jerry and Jonathon Babineaux are smaller than a lot of team’s defensive ends. The vast majority of successful NFL defenses have DTs that weigh at least 325lbs- look it up- Haynesworth, Ngata, Wilfork, Williams brothers in Minnesota, Williams in San Diego, Hampton in Pittsburgh.

We get pushed around on the Dline because we have sacrificed “quickness” for size.

Humble Fan

October 7th, 2009
11:35 am

Boy last year was fun.Back to reality for the falcons can’t have two years of winning in a row.Looks like 7-9 this year. no defence and an offence thats underperforming.I know its a long year but it could get longer if the qulaity of play don’t improve.

T.C

October 7th, 2009
12:07 pm

I think its the defensive D-coordinator.This guy needs to stick with college ball.I fault coach smith for not bringing in a proven D-coordinator.If im not mistaken,the birds have only blitzed maybe six times in three games.Vangorder don’t have creativity and skills when it comes to defensive play calling.I think coach smith should take over defensive play calls and place van-gorder as an assistant.

DAVID

October 7th, 2009
12:17 pm

Should the Falcons be concerned with the D-line yes… Fred Taylor was a good running back in his prime ran for over 100 yards thats too much..There wasnt any pressure put on Brady, the Falcons cant afford to have a team running over 100 yards and throwing the ball… When there is no pressure put on a quarterback a corner can only cover for so long, and this is a team that hardly blitz, LETS GET SOME HELP IN QUICK!!!!!!!!

EVOLONE

October 7th, 2009
1:52 pm

The D line is definetly a concern…………..the falcons will have to have their best game of the year come sunday against the 49ers if …….they need to be able to run the ball which should open up the passing game if not here comes an “L” and the rest of the season will be downhill!!!!!!!!!!!

HGN

October 7th, 2009
2:09 pm

I agree with Samuel……why not sign Antwan Lake. He has decent size and is the younger of the 3… And if things do not improve in a hurry The Falcons should look at replacing BVG. Its either the players or the defensive coordinator that must be replaced. Mountain Jim has a good point about the injury history of picks 1 (Jerry) and pick 2 (Moore ) , both were injury prone and big risks when they were drafted. And picking them has come back to bite the Falcons in the butt. That mistake made, do not compound the mistake by not bringing in good players now.

I have no problems with Babineux , Davis, and Sidbury (if he develops) , they are small but effective. Sam as Abraham, who is only about 260 himself.

Trey Lewis does not seem like the player he was 2 years ago. Maybe he’s hurting and not reporting it. Thomas Johnson does seem to be the best player of a mediocre lot.

Come on Falcons (TD) , lets not get complacent and stand pat when your players are clearly under-performing. You still have time to get on the right the ship and get on the right track to a winning season and the playoffs with a couple of smart player moves…WAKE UP !!!

TAURUS 1

October 7th, 2009
3:09 pm

Please can’t Thomas Dim and Mike Smith see the hand writing on the wall and get rid of Jamaal Anderson, he has done nothing since he’s been with the Falcons, I’ve seen and had enough of him. And while you are getting additional players the corner backs Houston and Grimes are jokes please send them packing and let them go, if you plan on winning get rid of them. Brian Van or whatever coach calls the plays do not make the right calls, no one ever rushes the Quarterback they have all day, as long as they need to throw the Football, what do we have to do to get a winning Football team in Atlanta, I think last year was a fluke, I thought we were on the road to winning but I guess we have to wait because this is not the year.

PMC

October 7th, 2009
3:11 pm

It’s not the DC. They are blitzing occasionally. They are getting some success but not nearly what they need. They are not getting pressure largely at all from the down linemen. This is the issue. Blitzing a LB or Safety takes them out of coverage and leaves our average and or young secondary vulnerable to big plays. It’s not the coordinator it’s the personnel. The Falcons are still building this thing. It’s still a process. Trey Lewis went from inactive to playing the Patriots in 1 week. There’s going to be a learning curve from being out 2 years. The offense is the strength of this team so they are going to have to cut out the fumbles and mistakes and put pts on the board. They need to average at least in the 20’s to be successful.

Special Teams have largely been special. That’s nice to see. Coverage and Blocking have been excellent. Eric Weems is doing a really nice job.

BossHogg

October 7th, 2009
4:02 pm

If the Falcons want to stop the run and get a better pass rush, they don’t need new talent. They just need to scheme their linebacker assignments better. They telegraph their LB assignments on every play, therefore making easy reads for the opponents offensive line, FB, RB & QB. The fact that the opponents OL doesn’t have to think just react, they are playing faster than our DL and LB.

Have the LB know their gap assignment, but have them line up differently before each snap or moving prior to the snap so that the OL is having to guess what’s coming and where its coming from. That will slow the opponents OL down thus creating better DL and LB play for the Falcons and havoc for the opposition.

It’s a coaching issue not a player issue.

Barry

October 7th, 2009
4:30 pm

Hey Y’all:

I mentioned this before. It is the techniques these guys on the defensive line are being taught by the COACHES, not the players that they have. Since the season has started, I have seen defensive linemen in individual battles and/or wrestling with the opponents linemen for “TOO LONG”. They are not looking into the backfield trying t make a play on the quarterback or running back. Instead, they are standing their throwing blows at the offensive linemen in front of them for “TOO LONG” while the running back or quarterback runs right pass them for big yardage. THEY NEED TO (1)FIGHT, (2)LOOK, AND (3)TACKLE. They need not “FIGHT” too long. They need to get rid of their man, QUICKLY, immediately, and start “LOOKING” for the ball. They do not need to be “FIGHTING” and wrestling with the offensive line men for “TOO LONG.” This plays to the advantage of the offensive linemen who has the defensive linemen “OCCUPIED” while the running back runs right by them. Like a quarterback has a “TOME CLOCL” in his head as to when to throw the football on passing plays before he gets tackled, the defensive linemen need to have a “TIME CLOCK” in his head as to the time he has in sheading a block and when to start looking into the back field to make a play on the ball. HE HAS TO “FIGHT” (NOT TOO LONG), “LOOK” (INTO THE BACKFIELD FOR THE BALL), AND “TACKLE” (OR CHASE THE MAN WITH THE BALL). THAT IS HIS JOB ALL DAY LONG. ALL DAY LONG, while he is on the field. He has to do it “QUICK” and “NASTY”. This is the job of the defensive line coach to teach, CONSISTANTLY, throughout the season until it is “AUTOMATIC” to all the defensive linemen to where the are moving in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”, “TOGETHER”, when they get off the ball. This is the “COACHES” job to teach, and the “PLAYERS” job to “IMPLEMENT” and make a “PLAY” on the ball.

LET”S DO THIS, ATLANTA FALCONS DEFENSIVE LINEMEN. LET’S DO THIS IN
“ONE HEARTBEAT!!!”

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LET”S GET “NASTY” AND KICK BUTT!!!

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!

………………………..”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!!!……………..

monty

October 7th, 2009
5:11 pm

I guess we win Sunday since we are coming of a bye-week and those teams win 60% of the time, right Orlando?

There’s definitely is too much holding going on.But who wants to watch football games with no-name 2nd string guys though? Thats why they are doing it. Brady got shoved in the back a little when we played them after a pass and they called ruffing the passer. It wasn’t even enough to make Brady turn around and look for a flag but he got one.

Alan

October 7th, 2009
6:23 pm

Did anyone of you attend the workout of the 3 DL,i doubt it so you are only making your wildest guesses, why don’t you leave the coaching up to Mike and his coaching staff who are hands on and know what is taking place that we don’t see. I would guess those workouts are mostly to let the d-line understand that they have a job to do and if they don’t, the opportunity will be give to someone who really wants to play

GO FALCONS-GO SOUTHERN RUSH

ALB FALCON

October 7th, 2009
6:44 pm

Really I believe that TD has to be concerned about being down 16-10 and coudn’t make it 16-17….. What another fumble? Turner the Burner is about to explode. Defense… GET RID OF JAMAL ANDERSON!!!!!! The BEER MAN is what we need along with some plugs in the middle! ATL @ San Fran 24-17…. GO FALCONS!!!

planb

October 7th, 2009
6:44 pm

I’v got more questions, than answers. Why did they play so good in the first game and not in 2 and 3? Is it coaching schemes or what. Same players in first two games.

Phillip

October 7th, 2009
6:49 pm

Thanks Alan, most of the ones in here bashing the falcons and coaches could not call a play or coach a peewee football team. The falcons are still two years away from having a great team. Chill out and enjoy the “process.”

dekalbdawg

October 7th, 2009
10:10 pm

I am Very Concerned about the Defensive Line! Lets face it they are the KEY to our Season!. Our running game will get on track Hopefully!! but PJ’s injury really is affecting things on DEfense! Stopping the Run and being able to RUn the ball is Essential to any team that wants to make the PLAYoffs! Bench JA! Start KB and rotate in LS!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 7th, 2009
11:34 pm

* Changed Roye’s draft date to correctly reflect he was selected in 1996 by the Steelers.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 7th, 2009
11:41 pm

CollegeDude: Thanks for checking me on those stats. I’ve also changed them.

Falcfan

October 8th, 2009
12:04 am

I’m glad we are bringing guys in for workouts. If nothing else, hopefully it will light a fire under the guys who are playing now. We have to 1) play more physically on defense (with the possible exception of Peterson and DeCoud as they have been popping some ppl) 2) stand at the point of attack. We hve folded over the past two games at the point of attack of the run game. We did this very well against Miami as you have to do to stop the Wildcat. But like I said the past two games have been pathetic. So if we add someone it has to be a very big strong body (yes I miss Grady Jackson). This leads me to vote Roye, but I’m not at practice to see them and how they fit in. I trust TD though. Go Falcons and thanks to DOL for giving us more of an inside look at these 3.

Mark E Scherer

October 8th, 2009
12:09 am

Look; Let’s admit a couple of things:
1: the falcon management have been concerned about a run stuffer ever since Gravy Jackson left- thats why they drafted P Jerry
2: JA98 IS A BUST.
Now You Decide Fans

SPARTAN NATION

October 8th, 2009
12:09 am

Abraham tells D-linemen to “MAN UP!”

Statesburr

October 8th, 2009
12:39 am

Mr. D. Orlando Ledbetter,

Removing my Blog reply because I ask to report to us fans accurate information and ask you to report why Abraham wants TOP DLineman pay and is not even pressuring the QB, nor making any tackles…. Just as I thought ..the soft Atlanta sportswriters….

WPinAZ

October 8th, 2009
5:02 am

CAJDAWG…..got itr right on the head. Out D-line is too light in the a–!! We let Grady go and replaced him with Jerry, who is 50lbs lighter and injury prone. The average O-Line in the NFL is above 300lbs. Out DT’s are around 280-290, and just aren’t that physical. Get me a couple 320-340 lbs space eaters in there and plug that middle. That may not help the pass rush, but teams won’t just run up and down the field on us. Patriots converted 4 4th and shorts on us – right up the middle every time. D-Line is too light. We need beef up front like most successful defenses in the NFL. I have to believe Smitty knows this.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 8th, 2009
7:40 am

Mr. Statesburr,

I deleted it because you were off topic. Yeah, I had a editing breakdown or two because of a “mandatory” seminar that threw the Wednesday routine off (no excuses). But I’m not going to take on personal attacks in MY BLOG. So go home with that. I’ll delete all of them.

Soft ATL writers. . . . come on. My book is entitled “Ledbetter at Large: Uncensored and off the chain!” That’s never been my reputation. I TRY GO HARD HERE. REAL HARD!!!

JB

October 8th, 2009
8:06 am

The Falcons also need to realize Jerry unfortunately is likely to be more frequently seen on the injury report than on the football field. Great portential but injury pron players tend to be that way throughout their career. They need to be looking for a long term solution as well as a short term. First let’s see how the bye week did for the team.

Statesburr

October 8th, 2009
8:17 am

I must hand it to you. You do have the ________ to respond and I respect you for that. I would like to say that I thought I was on topic in regards to Abraham (2 sacks, limited pressure and minimal tackles) and your question “Are the Falcons concerned about the Defensive Line?” Anyway, no problem I will go home with that. Have a good one.

Edgar Brimer

October 8th, 2009
10:25 am

8th out of 32 teams isn’t great, but isn’t it points (not yards) that matters? Also, with Jerry going down, the D-line hasn’t exactly been a stable entity lately…..give them some time, and I think things will be fine. DO NOT PANIC!!!!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 8th, 2009
11:34 am

EDGAR BRIMER: We saw that last year. But contenders are in the top half in everything, yards — passing and rushing — and scoring.

At the Branch, about to hit the practice field.

Troub

October 8th, 2009
12:01 pm

I’m definitely worried about the defensive line, and obviously the Falcons are as well. Look, I hope that the bye week allowed these guys to work on their execution, but I’m worried that the problem has much more to do with a lack of physical talent. The Patriots man-handled the D-line, and the Falcons are going to be playing some very stout O-lines in the coming weeks (SF, Chicago and Dallas).
I’m really hoping that an attitude change can turn things around, but I’m afraid that we’re going to have to rely on Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzales and Roddy White to carry the load until we can get another draft under our belts (and until Jerry comes back next season).

TB

October 8th, 2009
12:01 pm

Of course all Falcons fans should be concerned with the defensive line. Their performance the last 2 weeks was really very poor. The good news is that their performance in week 1 was terrific. I know loosing Jerry is tough, but the rest of our guys mostly played in that Miami game and played significantly better back then. So I think we can all see that our D-line is capable of playing tougher and smarter but just had breakdowns the last 2 weeks. So, we just get back to how we played in week 1 and all is better. Abraham said as much yesterday. I think if the coaches liked the older guys they worked out, 1 would have been signed. More than anything, it served as motivation for our D-line to get the job done because they could be replaced. Just get back to the form they already played at and all is well. Remember 4 weeks ago we were all singing the praises of our defense.

Marcos

October 8th, 2009
2:08 pm

i think we are very slow in the market why not going out and make a trade look what minesota get whit jared allen por a 1st round pick is so cheep we should bring julius peppers from carolina for a draft pick its a nice buisnness

Deborah

October 8th, 2009
2:10 pm

I am so tired of hearing about who should be fired on the Falcons, especially the secondary. I would hate to see anyone not have a job, but why is it the so-called fans always want the players fired. The D Line should take some blame also. This team is going to be alright.

Concerned?

October 8th, 2009
2:21 pm

Sautee

October 8th, 2009
2:22 pm

Enter your comments here

t larry

October 8th, 2009
3:32 pm

Go back to the scrap heap and bring back big Grady!!!!!!!!!!!
He wasn’t that bad.

No excuses

October 8th, 2009
4:11 pm

“Yeah, I had a editing breakdown or two because of a “mandatory” seminar that threw the Wednesday routine off (no excuses).”

If there are NO excuses then why say “because” of a seminar? No excuses means NO EXCUSES. Own up to it.

Dawgfan 4 life

October 8th, 2009
5:56 pm

I think the secondary plays poorly because quarterbacks have all day to throw the ball. No pressure from the D-line.

Edward

October 8th, 2009
7:08 pm

The Defensive line will work itself out in my opinion and will eventually get on track with Biermann and Abraham on the ends they got fairly good rushes against the Dolphins and Panthers. I agree wit Dawgfan4 life our secondary and any secondary for that matter will get shredded if the defensive line isn’t pressuring the quarterback. Trent Dilfer could manage a game if he had time to throw. That is the biggest key in winning at football in major college and NFL, getting pressure without blitzing. Go Falcons lets get things back on track in San Fran.

Falcons 28
Niners 17

SirReal

October 8th, 2009
9:22 pm

Its too early in the season for us to start crying. (Fans) I agree though that w/o the d-line getting pressure, the other levels of the D are forced to work a lot harder. I hope that the coaching staff had a lot of time during the last couple of weeks to iron out the wrinkles and create better scheming or whatever we need. I think the offense gets back on track but not the run this week….SF is playing it pretty well. But I think MR2 airs it out and proves that guy wrong who says he has a “NOODLE ARM”. But overall the key that day will be one word “EXECUTION”!!!