Nicholas’ Breakout Year? Wire a Roster Lock?

Time to Shine?

 

Once Bright Star
One of the gaping holes left wide open by the departure of Michael Boley in free-agency was a big need at the strong-side linebacker position. Boley seemingly had a coming out year and was one of the few bright spots of the controversial and divisive year of 2007, having close to a Pro-Bowl worthy year after being drafted in the fifth round. Boley combined for 109 total tackles, 3 sacks, 7 pass defenses, and 2 interceptions. Many thought Boley would be the perfect candidate to build a young, new defense around.

Not in Accord
That scenario certainly turned out not to be the case when Dimitroff and Smith started their new regime in Atlanta. The promising young linebacker pulled one of the better disappearing acts in recent memory. He had a sub-par to terrible year that saw him getting benched in favor of journeyman Coy Wire as the season wore on. No one knows exactly what happened and both sides remained professional and never spoke of trouble, but it can be assumed that the two sides weren’t aligned. No player ran to free-agency quicker than Boley, which seemed all too fine with the new bosses. Michael Boley signed with the New York Giants for 5 yrs and $25 million, getting the fresh start and big contract he obviously desired.

Nicholas’ Chance

Every departure creates an opportunity for a player ready and hungry to take over a starting spot in the NFL. The position looks primed for Stephen Nicholas to seize the chance put before him. Drafted by Bolt Petrino in the 4th round, Nicholas came in with monster stats out of Central Florida (He finished his college career with 326 tackles, 20 sacks, and a school record 53.5 tackles for loss) and great physical skill set (6′3, 230, 4.64 40-time, 29 x 225). He was known as a fierce hitter and superb pass rusher coming into the draft. Playing in 13 games throughout his rookie year and all 16 games last year mainly on special teams, Nicholas was backlogged behind mainstays Boley and Brooking and saw action only sparingly last year in a backup role. Nicholas had a big chance to grab a starter’s job last year when Boley fell out of favor and disappeared from his once hopeful outlook, but the coaches went in favor of Wire.

 

 

Tough Season
Coach Smith’s new command showed that, regardless of name or draft status, the best player will play. That was the case when Coy Wire jumped up and stole playing time from Boley, eventually grabbing hold of the his starter’s spot for good, leapfrogging Nicholas in the process. This off-season it was revealed that Nicholas had the weight of the world on his shoulders dealing with health issues of his young son needing a heart transplant. We get wrapped up in football and players so much, but a reality check on what’s truly important is needed in the sports world sometimes. With the help and support of his teammates, coaches, and owner, Nicholas’ son is doing well. How could anyone come to work and concentrate on the job at hand with those concerns? Nicholas somehow did it though, still totaling 20 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pass defenses. .

Ready to Shine
Through an off-season of hard work, perseverance, and sheer will, Nicholas seems primed to have a breakout year and be solid new cog in Atlanta’s new look defense built on speed and ferocity, lining up with the first team defense at mini-camp and OTA’s. It indeed would add to an already momentous story of resolve and purpose.

Is Coy Wire the Forgotten Defender?

Lost in all the shuffle of Boley exiting and Nicholas looking to take over one of the outside linebacker positions is Coy Wire. The relatively unknown OLB came out of nowhere to take playing time away from Michael Boley, and eventually grasping the starting position outright. Wire showed an extremely productive knack for supporting the run and sacrificing his body for a vicious hit. After taking over later in the season, Wire had a fairly prolific year collaring 34 tackles and 1 pass defense. More than any other player, Wire exhibited the new regime’s mentality that the best player will play, regardless of who you are and how well known you are. Before starting his stint in Atlanta, Wire is a journeyman who started 15 games in 2002 with the Buffalo Bills, but has played sparingly since. A look at Wire’s career stats:

Tackles – 219, Sacks – 5, Pass Defenses – 4,

A Roster Spot Lock?

Even though he was serviceable as a backup and eventual starter last year, Wire is over 30 years old and doesn’t fall in line with the process towards younger, faster, and more versatile players. Although very stout against the run, Wire seems to have been a liability in pass coverage, not showing the versatility that Van Gorder and Smith seek. Wire has one of the most intense and best off-season work ethics of any Falcons player, and maybe that will translate this year. The coaching staff seems to be leaning towards giving Nicholas every opportunity to seize the position. Wire seemed all but assured of a roster spot with his well known ability as a special teams ace, but then the Falcons signed Jamie Winborn who is the same age and fits the same mold as Wire, so maybe his seat just got a little warmer. But as evidenced last year, he will be ready, willing, and able to take over if Nicholas falters as a starter. He’s done it before.

 

How Will Stephen Nicholas Fare This Year?

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Discussion Framework:
1) Is Nicholas ready to have a breakout year?
2) Does Stephen Nicholas give you hope or doubt about the new-look LB corps?
3) Does Wire’s age and relative anonymity bother you at all?
4) Should the Falcons look at current or soon to be free-agents at OLB?

Daily Tailgate Recipe
Nothing like a good beer can chicken recipe. This is a great one by two of the best southern cooks around, The Neelys. Pat’s Beer Can Grilled Chicken, courtesy of The Neelys and FoodNetwork.com.

Next Topic Preview: Will the Falcons Get Younger at OLB?

161 comments Add your comment

jason

August 9th, 2009
11:47 pm

D3, Good evening my man. Here’s my take. Coy Wire did an outstanding job taking over for Boley last year. How much affect would he have playing a 16 game schedule at OLB. Real quick, Wire is a ST demon, known for punishing hits, and sacrificing the body for the tackle. He is best suited for that. Also, provides an insurance blanket if Nicolas proves not ready for Prime Time.
Nicolas, The reason he did not step in for Boley was beacuse of the personal situation he was in with the hconcerns of the health of his son. I think Smitty knew this and did not want to overwhelm Nicoals with a starting spot. Boley was let go because of a difference in philosopphy I think. I also think that Nicolas being ready to assume the position made it easier to let Boley go.

Ed-Covington

August 10th, 2009
3:11 am

Where is everybody? Asleep like normal human beings, I hope. Anyone who does not know Coy Wire’s story: he suffered a debilitating(?) spinal injury while with Buffalo and was subsequently released. He worked his way back into shape and Dmitroff & Smith gave him a chance last year.
We were all really disappointed that Boley did not work out, for whatever reason. Two years ago he played like a perrenial all-pro and we thought that position would be settled for years. So much for potential. Wonder if it had anything to do with his subsequent legal problems and suspension with the Giants. Remember the hype around the drafting of Nicholas; almost the same as with Sidbury this year. This is his third year as a fourth round pick from another regime, it is make or break time. I hope he succeeds and the defense improves. Everyone worries about the losses of Brooking, Milloy, Jackson, Boley & Foxworth; but I think we rated like 25th out of 32 teams in rush defense and notmmuch better in pass and overall defense. Changes had to be made to improve the defense and I think that the additions through the draft and FA and the additional experience of the younger players such as DeCoud and Jackson in the secondary will improve the defense. Go Birds! A fan EVERY year since 1966!

Ed-Covington

August 10th, 2009
3:30 am

Since no one else is posting at this hour, I’ll address the other questions. Wire performed adequately, if not spectacularly, when he started. He will not be a star, but neither will he be a liability. The additions of Peterson & Winborn provided needed experience. Bierman, Sidbury and Adkins may play some OLB in certain packages. Sorry, don’t know much about Miles or James. I am not worried about the position; I believe they will perform at least competently on both sides. I’m sure that if, as happens every year, some really talented OLB surprisingly is waived by another team, TD & MS will claim him.

mitch

August 10th, 2009
7:20 am

Jason–first, again and on consecutive blogs to boot. Just how good can life get! Your pal, Mitch

JJ

August 10th, 2009
8:21 am

Peter King – MMQ (SI.com):

” I think the six-year, $50-million deal for Roddy White in Atlanta seems fair as long as White, no matter how well he produces in the next four years, doesn’t try to reopen it. The Falcons were willing to play ball with White with a year left on his deal, and the ability (quite likely, because of the looming uncapped year) to make him a restricted free-agent after this season. White had two nothing seasons and then two very good ones. For that, the Falcons should get a bare minimum of four years out of this contract.”

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
8:30 am

Hold up one minute. My brother finds time to work on the car, repair a computer glitch, train the future WR/TE, spend quality time with the First Lady, and still post, time after time, impressive blogs. And serves as Commish of our league? D3 for Governor!! The man can do it all. Not that I am surprised though. Another fine post by our CEO and brother. How in the hell does he do it consistently like he does. Love the way my brother rolls…

At this time, I’m assuming that the furloughs are done and that he is back in the classroom this morn, engaging the minds of the next generation. If that is not a challenge, I don’t know what is.

D3, my brother, MAJOR PROPS to you for his OUTSTANDING commitment to the family, the Bird Cage, and the Falcon Nation. I’m damned proud to call you my wingman!!

NICHOLAS IS READY!!

Nicholas is ready to make his move. He has all the traits to be a very good one. He is fast, strong, and works incredibly hard. There is NO questioning his loyalty as he managed to somehow give his team focus and effort in the midst of what had to be PURE HELL for him and his wife. His effort did not go unnoticed by Smitty and TD for a reason. Clearly, there is something about this kid that translates into being a class act, a potential warrior on the field, and an even better man. Stephen will perhaps not be an all Pro this season but I’m on record right now, this guys will be a good one for years to come. His metal is not the stuff you find often. I’m in his corner 1000%.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
8:35 am

Wire will be retained for depth and his special team work. The LB I want to carefully watch over the preseason is Robert James. The man is a hitting fool!! He is effective in coverage and blitz schemes. He also offers the versatility to play some safety.

CBrass

August 10th, 2009
8:48 am

In reference to the other blog.

SW,

Yea I was scouting TG before the game even started…LOL

Sarah B,

I may be coming with some of my friends from work but if I need any help finding tickets I’ll be sure to ask. And you’re right mitch is an a$$(now back to ignoring him).

jason,

I think that Strig is the 10th person for FF.

long time falcon

August 10th, 2009
9:02 am

The moves made at the linebacking position are a perfect example of TD and smitty trying to create competition to make the position better. Fostering competition forces players to step up their games or else they could be out of job. Just like with JA98, he is no longer just going to be penciled in at DE just because he was the 8th pick. Davis is going to give him all he can handle and he better step it up or he’s going to the bench. Last season TD focused on building the offensive side of the ball so the incumbents on defense were pretty much safe. But this season its game on with the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line and secondary are also going to see heated competition as well. I think that was a big problem with previous regimes, guys came in all relaxed knowing they were going to be penciled in to start. With TD and company these guys better come to trainig camp ready to battle if they want to keep a job. I love this new regime with TD’s eye for talent and smitty’s no nonsense approach they are going to finally make us a long term winner.

long time falcon

August 10th, 2009
9:16 am

Seminole, Pat Yasinkas of ESPN who covers the NFC south, pegged nicholas as his breakout player on defense for the entire division. Thats high praise and I hope stephen can use those tremendous physical gifts to become a great linebacker.

John Waynesworld

August 10th, 2009
9:39 am

D3, the usual great commentary and analytics.

Yes, Nicholas is geared for a breakout season. In fact, I thought he would have a breakout season last year. Hind sight being 20/20, we all now know why last year was a tough one for Stephen. This year is all his and there’s a big tiger in that tank just waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting signal callers.

As far a Coy “Barbed” Wire, if Thomas Brown (who worked with Coy this summer) calls Wire’s off season workout “the hardest ever”, then Coy is our kind of player. I think he is a lock for special teams and a solid veteran backup for our young “D”.

D3, you know that TD is always looking for reinforcements and potential talent so I will confidently let our award winning front office handle that part of it. I do hear there are some good line backers coming in next year’s draft. We’re watching you, Rolando and Rennie!

Unca' Bob

August 10th, 2009
9:57 am

D3

S Nicholas is on a mission this season to show the Falcon Organization and team mates, the faith bestowed upon him last year will be repaided in full. The revelations in Pat Yasinskas’ article, which IMO, is the feel good story of the year, showed to me the true character of the Nicholas’ family. He will not disappoint .

BIRDMAN

August 10th, 2009
9:59 am

Thanks JJ .I guess I was asleep on the RW deal.I had’nt heard anything about it.Between my 16 yr olds fast pitch try outs and things goin on with my church .I have been busy this weekend .Other than comeing in a few times and reading what you gys have had to say and posting a few things on my self.I did’nt hear about RW .So he is back with us now ? not tht he ever left.And do you gys think this young D can hold up to the O ’s we are going to face this year.If not will our very good O be able to make up for it?

Unca' Bob

August 10th, 2009
10:03 am

Falcons WR Roddy White caught his first pass in training camp – a bubble screen from QB D.J. Shockley

JJ

August 10th, 2009
10:11 am

Atlanta Falcons

Date
Opponent
Line

Sept. 13
Miami
-4

Sept. 20
Carolina
-2½

Sept. 27
at New England
+7½

Oct. 4
Bye

Oct. 11
at San Francisco
+2

Oct. 18
Chicago
-3

Oct. 25
at Dallas
+4

Nov. 02
at New Orleans
+3½

Nov. 8
Washington
-4

Nov. 15
at Carolina
+3

Nov. 22
at N.Y. Giants
+5½

Nov. 29
Tampa Bay
-6½

Dec. 6
Philadelphia
-1

Dec. 13
New Orleans
-2½

Dec. 20
at N.Y. Jets
PK

Dec. 27
Buffalo
-5

Jan. 3
at Tampa Bay
-2

I beleive the home team receives +3, but the 49ers line is interesting!
Back to work, check in later.

Unca' Bob

August 10th, 2009
10:34 am

JWW,

Sergio Kindle, OLB, Tex and Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Mizzo.

John Waynesworld

August 10th, 2009
10:57 am

Unca’ Bob,

Good ones! It just makes for more quality choices for us, if that is what we go for next year. I will read more on these guys. Thanks.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:04 pm

LTF, I am with Pat on this one. And you called it. The entire Falcon organization, from AB and Step, all the way down, stood by Stephen in some very difficult times. He will not let them or the Falcon nation down. Look out…a star is about to be born!!

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:09 pm

Birdman, the defense will struggle at times but I am quite confident that they will mature as the season progresses. Leadership is the key and we have several young leader emerging. Babs is taking his role very seriously on the DL. Coleman is emerging in the secondary. Peterson was brought in to bring intensity and leadership to the young LB corps. I think it was my brother UnCa Bob (Semper Fi my man) who predicted that we will be in serious sync on D by week five. Tall order…but D3 and Jason have given me enough reason to put aside my reservations about BVG calling the defensive shots. I think the Process continues…..

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:12 pm

Hey UnCa Bob, what about this scenario? ‘Spoon at WLB, Lofton at MLB, and Nicholas at SLB. I love it!!!

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:13 pm

JWW, DT is not to shabby next season as well in case we have to dip back into that basket.

BIRDMAN

August 10th, 2009
12:15 pm

OK 50m deal !! I think he will shine .I see that the Maddon report say’s Gonzo is the best lookin in the NFC south. thats good to see also .

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:19 pm

Birdman, as long as Mad Mike is calling plays, look for MR, RW, and MJ to be one of the NFC’s best trio for years to come. And if for some reason we lose Mad Mike in the coaching shuffle that is to come next offseason, have no fear…Coach Musgrave is more than capable of taking the reigns as OC.

BIRDMAN

August 10th, 2009
12:26 pm

Thanks Seminole Warrior….So you a FSU Man ?

Ric Roc

August 10th, 2009
12:26 pm

I’ve seen Coy Wire in TC and I would be very, very shocked if he didn’t come away with a roster spot. He looked great running with the 2nd unit.

Extremely happy for S. Nicholas and his family for the health of his son. Now that’s he’s able to concentrate more on football, I expect him be a consistent, fantastatic performer for the Falcons at the Sam Linebacker.

BIRDMAN

August 10th, 2009
12:35 pm

Man I realy like what I hear.Hope the team stays healthy so we can show the NFL what we got .Ya’ll think Shokley will start Saturday night aginst the Lions ?

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:38 pm

B-man, I bleed Garnet and Gold my man; been a fan all my life. Got my degree elsewhere however due to my active duty career in the USAF. But FSU is college football to me; come visit us in Tally sometime and feel the intensity and the passion…

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:40 pm

Still in the air on his starting BM…but he should see extensive time. I see no reason for MR or MT to be out there at all. They can be held out until preseason game three as far as I am concerned….too damned valuable to the Process!! We MUST see what we have at those key slots in terms of depth.

Unca' Bob

August 10th, 2009
12:41 pm

SW,

Spoon is the real deal. Ask W Moore. The man will bring it.

JJ

August 10th, 2009
12:41 pm

Sorry SW, anyone but Montoya/Kyle Bush!

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:43 pm

UnCa Bob, I’m with you. I’m already planning to be the lead voice for his being our #1 draft selection next season. No doubt in my mind that he is the best WLB coming out!!

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:44 pm

LOL, JJ. I’m already 2 for 2. I got Tiger yesterday and the Braves did it for me as well.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:45 pm

I need some help picking a new team since my man Dale Jarrett called it quits. I don’t want to bandwagon; I like to watch my guys grow into winners.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:46 pm

But if Danica comes over, I’m going to be all over that car like the Player is when he is in hot pursuit of Lady Sarah…LOL.

JJ

August 10th, 2009
12:47 pm

You really went out on a limb with your Tiger pick!lol
Montoya has been hot the last 3 weeks, but he’ll get into it with KB!

JJ

August 10th, 2009
12:48 pm

Best new kid not named Kyle, #20 Joey La-something, Home Dept.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:49 pm

So UnCa Bob, are you with me? We will form the Sean Weatherspoon in ‘10 draft committee right now?

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
12:50 pm

Imagine the possiblities with we could have had Hood, Moore, and next year, Spoon. I’ll take two out the three!!

CBrass

August 10th, 2009
12:55 pm

Today is a great day!!! I just went and picked up my football tickets…UGA that is!!!!

I think that Nicholas will be fine. He is surely going to boost some head this season. His little man is good and healthy now which means both his head and his heart will be in the game. Last season I’m sure his head was in the games but his heart was with is wife and son at the hospital. Also the fact that he’s not going the let the AB and the rest of the Falcons nations down!!

JJ

August 10th, 2009
12:56 pm

Montoya just ran over another teams jack man…think he wants to win…lol!

Unca' Bob

August 10th, 2009
12:57 pm

JJ,

Lagano, Joey.

SW,

Spoon will be the first OLB drafted. He will gone by the time we pick.

Got Kurt Busch in a local pool.

JJ

August 10th, 2009
1:00 pm

He’s ok, just banged up a little and montoya apologised. Unless it pays real good, think I’ll pass on that job!

Unca' Bob

August 10th, 2009
1:01 pm

Seminole Warrior,

A little Bio on Spoon. Wait until you read last years Stats.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1123346

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
1:01 pm

CBrass….you went the wrong way my dear…You should have bought FSU tickets…LOL. Glad that you are ready for the season.

Anytime you Georgia fans want to send Mark Richt packing, we will be ready to bring him home!!

jason

August 10th, 2009
1:02 pm

Good morning guys. Night shift is killin me. I was off this weekend and still up half the night. Alot of good posts on Nicolas. D3 had some good questions to ponder? I posted on Nicolas and I think he will have a breakout year. I don;t know how big, though. Just a dependable starter this year and I would be happy. I also think Wire will be a strong contributor this year as well. When you look at what we have at LB, it is interesting. We have Nicolas, Lofton, and Petereson as our startrers. The question comes at the back ups. I feel like Spencer Adkins will make the team as a ST Warrior. That’s 4 for 6 spots. This will come down to Wire vs James vs Winborn vs Gilbert. I feel like Wire has the edge from what he did last year on ST and as a starter in place of Boley. The only thing working against him is his age. Winborn, I think is here for merely competition. If he somehow catches fire and starts dropping everything, I could see him taking a spot, highly unlikely, though. The real battle for the last spot will come down to Gilbert vs James, and may the best man win.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
1:06 pm

Nooooooo…we will get him UnCa Bob.

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
1:07 pm

I saw him on my dish last year while monitoring William Moore. So I know what he can do. Given Spoon and Aaron Curry this year, which would you take, UB?

SeminoleWarrior

August 10th, 2009
1:10 pm

Wire, James, and Gilbert will make the cut with Adkins being brough back for practice squad duties. Remember, special teams are a HIGH priority with TD. He draft James for that role last season and Wire adds that “it” factor as well as provides depth. We can keep Adkins on the practice squad and move him into the active roster next season.

CBrass

August 10th, 2009
1:11 pm

SW,

Yea we all know who the brains behind that operation was. It will be a while before we let Richt go.

D3,

As always another great blog. You’re doing an outstanding job.

BIRDMAN

August 10th, 2009
1:12 pm

Yes I agree that there’s know use playin our no 1 QB Matt.We don’t need some new D player or someone else hurting him before the reg season will start. Just thought maybe Smith might would start Shock because of the way his doin this trainin and the fact also he did’nt start last pre season.Don’t matter to me its just a thought. Is Bobby B still with the noles this year ? and I grew up round That area .Sorry though I like the Dogs and Jackets nothin personal.