Atlanta Falcons: Look for Matthews, Massaquoi to pick up most of Edwards’ playing time





FLOWERY BRANCH — In the aftermath of the stunning decision to release Ray Edwards, there was a big hole on the Falcons’ depth chart for the first time this season.

Kroy Biermann, who was playing more than Edwards, slid into the No. 1 slot at left defensive end on the team’s unofficial depth chart.

Cliff Matthews, a special-teams standout, figures to benefit the most from Edwards’ release, followed by rookie Jonathan Massaquoi and fourth-year defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

061312 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons defensive ends Cliff Matthews (left) and Ray Edwards (right) walk off the field at the end of team practice in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.    CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061312 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons defensive ends Cliff Matthews (left) and Ray Edwards (right) walk off the field at the end of team practice in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Massaquoi is listed as No. 2 behind Biermann, and Sidbury is listed as No. 2 behind John Abraham — followed by Matthews.

“They are all doing well,” defensive line coach Ray Hamilton said Thursday. “They have been practicing all year, but they haven’t been practicing on our side of the ball a whole lot because they’ve been doing mostly scout-team stuff.”

Edwards had played an average of 23 snaps per game. Biermann likely will take on eight of those plays, leaving about 15 snaps to be filled by the other defensive ends because the Falcons like to use a rotation to keep players fresh.

“Their mindset has changed a little bit this week,” Hamilton said. “They know they have a chance to play, and they are doing well.”

Matthews, a seventh-round pick in 2011, is the most similar in stature to Edwards, who played mostly against the run in the Falcons’ base 4-3 defense.

“Cliff is a big, strong and physical guy that we’ve always liked,” Hamilton said. “We think that he’s come along enough to get in there and get a few snaps.”

Massaquoi, a local product from Central Gwinnett High, is working to refine his skills. He was inactive for the first eight games of the season. He played five plays on special teams Sunday against New Orleans in his NFL debut.

Hamilton is high on Massaquoi.

“Massaquoi is a guy that’s got a lot of physical ability, a lot of good football instincts,” Hamilton said. “He’s just a raw kid right now. Hopefully, he’s learned enough to get in there. We’ll see what he can do.”

The Falcons need to improve on defense against the run and would like to ramp up their pass rush. Abraham leads the team with seven sacks, and Biermann has two.

Overall, the Falcons have 21 sacks, which is tied for 13th in the league with Indianapolis and New Orleans. Denver leads with 31 sacks. Also, the defense has given up 129.8 yards per game, which ranks 25th.

Sidbury has the most experience of the trio.

“His chances of playing are going up also,” Hamilton said.

Falcons defensive end Lawrence Sidbury celebrates a defensive touchdown during his rookie season in 2009. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons defensive end Lawrence Sidbury celebrates a defensive touchdown during his rookie season in 2009. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

The Falcons have pulled Matthews off some of the special teams in order for him to better focus on playing from scrimmage.

“He looks like the real deal,” Hamilton said. “He’s a guy that we’ve brought along slowly.”

The door clearly is open for Matthews, who played at South Carolina and was a second-team all-SEC pick in 2010.

“We need a big physical guy, so Cliff could be the one who mostly benefits by what has happened,” Hamilton said.

First-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan uses some of his ends like 3-4 outside linebackers. Against the Saints, Biermann dropped into coverage 16 yards on one play. There are times when he stands up and blitzes or plays the run.

Sidbury would like to see some of that action, too.

“I’m comfortable with everything,” Sidbury said. “I’ve shown, in the times that I have gotten to play, that I’m comfortable with everything. I don’t have any uneasiness with anything. It’s fun to do. Yes, you have to think a little bit more, but I’m able to handle it with no problem.”

Matthews, who was inactive for all 16 games last season, clearly is excited about the opportunity.

Defensive players look on as Falcons rookie defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi dives to block a soccer ball during a simulated punt drill at team practice in Flowery Branch on Sunday, July 29, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Defensive players look on as Falcons rookie defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi dives to block a soccer ball during a simulated punt drill at team practice in Flowery Branch on Sunday, July 29, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

“I’m ready,” said Matthews, who said he’s been getting in extra film work. “All I have to do is take advantage of the opportunity.”

Massaquoi had 20 sacks one season in junior college and was a standout at Troy.

“Jonathan is a very athletic defensive end,” coach Mike Smith said. “He’s an explosive player. He’s a strong guy. His role will probably have an opportunity to change a little bit this week.”

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70 comments Add your comment

Ignition

November 16th, 2012
6:50 am

I guess the Falcons aren’t high on Sidbury.. Whenever I seen him in games he makes play though.

Samuel

November 16th, 2012
7:19 am

It seems to me that whoever shines when given the opportunity will get the majority of snaps. At this point I don’t think the Falcons know who that is.

The Real Falcon

November 16th, 2012
7:50 am

Looking forward to seeing the kids. Don’t expect much from Sidbury. Takes plays off.

The Real Falcon

November 16th, 2012
7:51 am

The time stamp is an hour ahead. We DID have a time change.

SeenThisBFalcon

November 16th, 2012
8:10 am

TIME TO RISE UP!!!!!! BEAT THE CARDINALS BABY!!!!

Me Too

November 16th, 2012
8:17 am

What is the criteria for who plays? It doesn’t seem that it is ability.

shesoleo

November 16th, 2012
8:20 am

At this point it really doesn’t matter who they give the chance to,it seems they’re willing and ready to have the opportunity to just play and hopefully make an impact. It couldn’t possibly be any worst than the effort RE gave.Good Luck Guys!!!!!! it’s your time to shine.

Ed

November 16th, 2012
8:31 am

I’ve really been wanting to see Massaquoi get more playing time all Ray Edwards did was fill a roster spot.

Jimmy Crack

November 16th, 2012
8:44 am

Well-planned timing that Massaquoi was just brought up last week before Edwards’ release, so he could get some reps and take over Matthews’ Special Teams spot so Cliff could transition into the DE rotation.

It would be nice to see a 4-man pass rush that succeeds.

chucktownfalcon

November 16th, 2012
8:48 am

Two Former Gamecock DE’s! Let’s go Cliff!

Jesse

November 16th, 2012
8:56 am

It is interesting. Sidbury has four sacks last year, and Matthews is inactive, but now Matthews is looking to get more snaps? I guess it’s because he’d be better at stopping the run?

Wes

November 16th, 2012
9:09 am

Well if your going to put a raw talent on the field, it may as well be DE in a pass-rush situation. It’s certainly one of the simplest roles in the game. I’m intrigued. I’d love to see Massaquoi get in it on a play or two, get some pressure on Kolb/Skelton (whoever they’re using these days).

jay

November 16th, 2012
9:18 am

Whoever they use can’t be as inept as Ray Edwards. Dude had 9 tackles(stop the run?) and 0 sacks this season. So like I said anybody would be an upgrade.

dwayne

November 16th, 2012
9:19 am

I agree with you Wes, 3rd and long. Coach; “See the QB? Kill him!!!!!”

Esquire

November 16th, 2012
9:40 am

Enter your comments here

DC Dirty Bird

November 16th, 2012
9:49 am

Sidbury takes plays off? Don’t you have to be playing in order to take a play off. I would love to see what Sidbury and Matthews can do in the stand up pass rusher role. One of those two guys are going to be a pleasant surprise.

SirReal

November 16th, 2012
9:52 am

Hard to call it a hole in the depth chart. Edwards honestly was a non factor. Period. All he did was hustle his way to 11 milion guaranteed. I dont even think anyone will pick him up. I’d be surprised.

Esquire

November 16th, 2012
9:55 am

It was obvious last year that Edwards was taking plays off, hurt or not, he just wasn’t playing. What will he do with his day now that the Twinkies factory is closing.

Good Bye “Take a play off Ray”…………..!!!

Welcome to the NFL Cliff Matthews, and Massaquoi. Bring it Sidbury. Falcons on 3!!!

SimpleDawg

November 16th, 2012
10:20 am

I’d have been playing these guys some already……. Couldn’t do any worse than Edwards.

Cliff Matthews could be a beast….he’s big, tall, fast, and has a wide wingspan.

Maybe one of them can help block on 3 & 1.

D man

November 16th, 2012
10:25 am

What a waste of talent Edwards was. He will wake up soon and realize what a great opportunity in life he had and let fade away.

TURTSNAP

November 16th, 2012
10:41 am

Looking forward to seeing Massaquoi……. Enjoyed watching his brother play WR at UGA

Its Just Football

November 16th, 2012
10:43 am

“He might get a few snaps”. Wow. Defensive ends rush the passer. Either you got speed and power to get around the block or you dont. What’ s to learn? Clay Mathews came in as a rookie and had 12 sacks.

Da Truth

November 16th, 2012
11:01 am

@Me Too
“What is the criteria for who plays? It doesn’t seem that it is ability.”

Maybe to an idiot like you, After drinking 2 six packs, I probably could see your point. Falcons just released a guy than less than 2 years ago they paid $11 million in a signing bonus. But it’s all race and politics right?

Sounds like you are another idiot whose “logic” told you to vote for Obama.

warfalcon

November 16th, 2012
11:02 am

Just Win Baby,ONE GAME AT A TIME,LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paddy

November 16th, 2012
11:04 am

TheReal Falcon……Sdbury takes plays off? I doubt a little used DE whom you say, ‘takes plays off’ ,could ever get out of camp, let alone last 4 years in th NFL. No, Sidbury plays hard or he would be looking for work along time ago. Your comment just does not pass the smell test. When you are about the last man on the roster, you play hard.

Da Truth

November 16th, 2012
11:04 am

D man
“What a waste of talent Edwards was. He will wake up soon and realize what a great opportunity in life he had and let fade away.”

Really? He let an opportunity get away? He has earned about $20 million in the NFL.

You have no idea of the condition his knee is in. Falcons gambled and lost. Edwards won the lottery.

U so funny.

kd

November 16th, 2012
11:08 am

edwards was a bust but thats behind us. Moving forward we are gonna need sidbury have big games the rest of the year and have Massaquoi come into his on, i see him making a few mistakes to begin with but by the second round of the playoffs he will be rady to do some damage

E LOVE

November 16th, 2012
11:10 am

Kroy keep doing your thing. you are a warrior. ABE is still a beast. we need one more player to take the next step forward.,

E LOVE

November 16th, 2012
11:12 am

Someone on the Defensive team is in a position to get a raise next year.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

November 16th, 2012
11:15 am

Da Truth — You are correct. But you want to maximize these opportunities. While he got about $20 million, he left another $15 million on the table. Now, is that a crime? Also, how much of the $20 will he retain or will be watching him on the second edition of “Broke?” Don’t think his knee was the problem. He made a nice play on a toss sweep against the Saints. Physically he appeared fine.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

November 16th, 2012
11:20 am

Ed – El Sid seems to make plays whenever they give him a shot.

America spoke

November 16th, 2012
11:21 am

Da Truth: What do our president winning another term, and Me Too’s silly statement have in common?
Are you one of silly, grumpy white seccessionists? If so, you can move to Mexico and follow soccer!
I’m hoping Massaquoi gets a chance in the near future. I have a friend who works at Troy U. who told me Massaquoi is raw, but strong as an ox! He just needs time to refine his skills.
To borrow from Esquire: Falcons on Three!

kd

November 16th, 2012
11:21 am

awww man we got d.led jumping in, i bet that guy could never lose a arguement about the falcons in a barbershop!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

November 16th, 2012
11:22 am

The Real Falcon — Need to fix the time stamp. For now, we are on Coughlin time.

America spoke

November 16th, 2012
11:24 am

DOL: Don’t listen to the haters! They wish they could do your job!

kd

November 16th, 2012
12:35 pm

Massaquoi may become our JPP this season

kd

November 16th, 2012
12:37 pm

massaquoi could become our version of the giants jpp

Creaky

November 16th, 2012
12:46 pm

D Led, surely all 3 won’t be activated for the game Sunday. Any idea which ones it will be?

America spoke

November 16th, 2012
12:48 pm

Now, the time stamp is TWO hours ahead!

Surg

November 16th, 2012
12:54 pm

Sidbury gets lost some plays…Athletic but we need smarter players on the field and Sid just likes to rush the passer.

DC Dirty Bird

November 16th, 2012
1:08 pm

I think if our coaching staff actually practiced situational use of specific talents instead of the seeming over-focus on well-roundedness, we’d see more explosive plays.

Lets see if these three DE’s can make an impact.

Delbert D.

November 16th, 2012
1:20 pm

1:08 pm! Dang, I’m late for my haircut!

mrmatt1113

November 16th, 2012
1:25 pm

Enter your comments here

Big Donnie

November 16th, 2012
1:32 pm

Ray Ray was too busy focusing on his ‘modeling’ career, and trying to pull chicks. Dude, when you’re that big, you should be focused on hurting QBs, not starting seductively at a camera lens with a pouty look on your face. What a tool.

PlanB

November 16th, 2012
1:32 pm

America spoke – We just proved that the best way to get votes is to buy them with gifts. Gifts = Free phones, birth control, amnesty and living a good free life off the efforts and hard work of others. You can bet your a$$ those people are going to get out there & vote. This country is tettering on causing a world wide economic slide. Remember moochers, you eventually run out of other peoples money. Enough politics.
I’m betting that it was Nolan that presuaded Smith to get rid of Edwards and use the new guys. Smitty is bad to keep the young guys on a shelf and in the dust.

mrmatt1113

November 16th, 2012
1:38 pm

In the above picture Massaquoi is attempting to block a volleyball not a soccer ball.

old falc

November 16th, 2012
2:03 pm

the only reason RE had 9 tackles the running back ran into him and he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.

shannyeight

November 16th, 2012
2:04 pm

Sidbury is Abraham’s backup…if Abe is out on the field most of the time, Sid will be on the bench. Matthews will be Biermann’s back up…me likes that line up.

Now if they can learn to stuff the run, they can allow Spoon to take one more game off, and comeback against Tampa Bay. They are gonna need to stop the run against Doug Martin.

It's crazy

November 16th, 2012
2:21 pm

This Ray Hamilton guy does not seem to like Sidbury very much. Even in your article DLED you seem to make a point to state that Hamilton is “high on Massaquoi” but then when it comes to Sidbury he comments…oh he will get to play too. Sidbury just goes in and makes plays. I’m really beginning to think Hamilton is the main guy holding Sidbury back. Hopefully Nolan has eyes on these players and can override the Hamilton jinx. Why keep a 4th Rd draft pick 4 years and coach him up then never put him on the field and let another team benefit from the coaching. Sidbury is in his contract yr and this Hamilton character has never really given Sid a chance to shine. We don’t have the first semblance of a pass rush so why not give the guy a shot? DLed even you mention Sidbury in your heading and opening paragraphs as almost an afterthought. I could have sworn I saw Ray Hamilton take a swing at Sidbury during a D-line drill on video. Sidbury and Massaquio will flourish in this Nolan D. Matthews is more of a run stopping, hand in the dirt kinda guy IMO. From now on DLed you need to mention these guys by the number of plays they have made in games, that means Sidbury is mentioned first not last like he is the rookie of the bunch. Do bettter. #RiseUp

Mitt Romney

November 16th, 2012
2:31 pm

I lied about so much during that darn campaign I thought I would shoot out a few parting lies for those dumb enough to believe everything I say. America is moving ahead and away from me and my type. Night night.