One of the biggest surprises from Dimitroff’s first draft was the emergence of 5th round draft pick Kroy Biermann. He was a seldom heard of defensive end out of a smaller school, Montana, and many people thought it might be a throw-away pick. Experts thought he would have an uphill battle to even make the roster. At the very minimum, experts judged that he would be a project at best that would take several years to develop with his smaller weight for a defensive end. Several draft experts even anticipated him moving to outside linebacker in the pros with his size and quickness that could translate to a linebacker position instead of having to go up against 300+ gargantuan tackles. Despite all the doubt surrounding him, Biermann came to camp ready to compete in Coach Smith’s new regime. He quickly showed his competitive fire and that he belonged in a role to backup John Abraham. Biermann shocked a lot of people in how much playing time he got in a very short amount of time, earning a chance to play in all 16 regular season games. He certainly made the most of the time he got on the field totaling 21 total tackles, but also registering 2 sacks, equaling the same number of sacks that starting DE Jamaal Anderson has collared in two years. A comparison to Patrick Kerney (5 sacks in first two years combined, and then exploding for 12 in his third) has even been bandied about when he came out of Virginia in terms of size, weight, and work ethic.
Kroy Biermann’s Rookie Campaign:
Games Played – 16, Total Tackles – 21, Sacks – 2
With the drafting of Lawrence Sidbury Jr. in the 4th round of this year’s draft, some assumed that Biermann would be a candidate to move back to linebacker to help out the lack of depth and allowing Sidbury to fill the role that Biermann assumed last year with his outstanding pass-rushing skills. The Falcons only carried 4 Defensive Ends on their 53-man protected roster: Abraham, Anderson, Biermann, & Davis. So does that put Biermann and Sidbury in a direct competition for playing time? Coming out of Richmond, Sidbury seemingly has faster and better skill sets (6′2, 266, 4.5 40-time) when in direct contrast to when Biermann came out (6′3, 241, 4.8 40-time). All indications are that the coaching staff plans to keep Biermann at DE, with him packing on almost 20 lbs in the off-season and thus lining up with the first team defense in mini-camp in the place of an absent John Abraham. Expectations are that Biermann will only get better in his second campaign after a year in the system and hitting the weight room.
After drafting Peria Jerry in the first, William Moore in the second, and Chris Owens the third, Thomas Dimitroff continued his rebuilding effort on defense by selecting Lawrence Sidbury Jr. out of Richmond. The pick was roundly hailed as a steal pretty much across the board by draft experts and Falcons fans alike. Many pre-draft projections even had him going as high as the second round in some circles with his amazing production (56 Total Tackles, 20 Tackles for Loss, 11.5 Sacks), unbelievable skill set (4.5 40-time, 28 bench reps), and incredible pass-rushing skills.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Sidbury Jr’s absolute domination in the Division 1-AA National Championship Game, where he earned MVP.
The only problem he encounters is that the cupboard seems to be set for this year’s roster with Abraham and Anderson likely to start and Biermann and Davis looking to be their backups. Since competition at all positions is the key theme to this year’s camp, Sidbury certainly can work himself into some type of rotation. It likely will have to come at Biermann’s expense because Davis has been a rock solid backup the past 4 years, even earning a chance to displace Anderson at RDE. Reports from coaches on Sidbury at mini-camp suggested that his adjustment to the NFL might be a little slower than expected. Ultimately, its up to Sidbury Jr. because if he can prove that he deserves a chance to play in some form, you can bet that Coach Van Gorder and Coach Smith will find packages to implement so he can work himself in and use his high octane motor and serious pass-rushing skills. One thing is for certain, having a plethora of talent and a future replacement for John Abraham is a very good problem to have.
Biermann and Sidbury Jr. might be the perfect candidates to use in 3-4 schemes that Coach Smith and Coach Van Gorder look to possibly implement in certain situations. Their size, speed, and pass-rushing skills can be ideal for outside linebackers/defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme. With Mike Peterson and Curtis Lofton potentially playing ILB’s in the 3-4, Biermann, Sidbury Jr., Nicholas, and Wire give the defensive coaches a lot of options. The only issue with Biermann and Sidbury Jr. would be their liabilities in pass drops.
Can Evans or Lucas Shock the Critics?
Two lesser known defensive ends are also in camp trying to make a successful bid at earning a roster spot. A look at the underdog candidates looking to either make a spot on the 53 man roster or practice squad:
Willie Evans – #96
Height – 6′1, Weight – 267; NFL Experience – 1 year
Bio – Signed as a undrafted rookie free agent by the New York Giants out of Mississippi State in 2006. Bounced around the NFL between the New Orleans Saints, NFL Europe, and the Carolina Panthers. Signed as free agent by the Falcons to practice squad in January of 2008. May have inside track to make practice squad again. Addition of Sidbury makes it extremely tough to make a spot on 53-man protected roster.
Maurice Lucas – #64
Height – 6′4, Weight – 260; 40 time – 4.88, Bench Reps x 225 – 20
Bio – Signed as undrafted rookie free agent out of Colorado. Started all 13 games at left defensive tackle last season and contributed with 43 tackles (36 solo) six tackles for loss and one quarterback sack . In his career, Lucas totaled 107 total tackles, four sacks, three fumble recoveries and two passes defensed. Looks to be in direct competition with Evans for practice squad roster spot
1) Will Biermann follow up his impressive rookie year with a successful second campaign?
2) Should Biermann be concerned about the drafting of Sidbury?
3) What role will Sidbury play in this year’s defense?
4) Any chance of Lucas or Evans making active roster?
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