Many of our fears as Falcons fans were put to rest, or at least calmed a little, after the defense came out with sense of urgency and ferocity that seemed to be missing in the first contest against the Lions. Granted the Rams were without their starting QB Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson only played three series, and Donnie Avery didn’t suit up, but the defense did come out played with much more of an intensity and striking tendency than in Detroit. After a 9 yard run by Jackson on the first play, the defense settled down and proved they could rise up and defend the run better than preseason week 1. The starters looked good and flew around the ball much better and seemed to work out the kinks and rust from their first performance. A look at the positions:
Babineaux and Trey Lewis started at defensive tackle and both did very well against the run, holding one of the best backs in the game to 10 yards on 3 carries, although Jackson left quickly after those 3 carries. The defensive tackles were effective in getting some pressure on Kyle Boller and forcing some errant throws and thus forcing the Rams to work out of 2nd & 3rd and longs. Big Trey Lewis went a long way towards proving he deserves a big shot to start week one against the Dolphins. Lewis led all DTs with 4 tackles in the game and providing the nice big body to complement the pass rushing Babineaux. Babineaux also looked quick in penetration and coming away with 2 tackles and several pressures as well. Thomas Johnson continues to make a stamp on a roster spot by collaring two tackles as well. Peria Jerry continues to seemingly struggle with the adjustment to the pro game. Luckily he won’t be counted on immediately and can work his way in while learning the ropes. Even though not making any tackles, Vance Walker also keeps his solid preseason performance going to make the team as 7th round draft pick. At this point it seems difficult to imagine the Falcons not carrying 5 defensive tackles for on the 53 man protected roster. Will Trey Lewis start opposite Babineaux week 1? Does Peria Jerry’s slow adjustment to the NFL concern you? Will Thomas Johnson, Vance Walker, or both make the final roster?
The great surprise of the game was of course Lawrence Sidbury Jr., whom many considered an absolute steal when Dimitroff took him in the fourth round of this year’s draft. He certainly validated those opinions by notching two sacks in fairly limited playing time against the Rams on Friday night. It was a pretty safe assumption that Sidbury would see playing time this year, but he did a nice job cementing that fact. Kroy Biermann had a team high 5 tackles and nice pressure as well. Chauncey Davis didn’t look overly outstanding in Jamaal Anderson’s place, but he did collar two tackles. Even though coaches have their own assessments and judgments, fans seem to be quickly losing patience with Anderson and the lack of production. Yes it is only preseason, but last year’s rookie Biermann managed two sacks as a backup in a season and Sidbury pulled down two in one game. How many chances does a player get to prove himself? Abraham didn’t do much, but we all know his capability. What’s your opinion of Jamaal Anderson: more time or time to move on? How much will/should Sidbury Jr. play? Should Biermann be in competition for a starting spot?
After a disorganized and less than stellar performance in Detroit, the linebackers looked much better against the Rams in St. Louis. After getting outrun by Daunte Culpepper in week 1, Mike Peterson showed up with his shoes on fire running around the field and striking the ball carrier with a ferocity many fans expected when we signed him many months ago. Peterson erased any doubts on whether he still has some serious gas left in the tank. Curtis Lofton shook off some seeming rust from the first week, possibly from missing time in training camp. Lofton finished with 3 overall tackles and showed the quickness and power we came to expect from him last year. Stephen Nicholas didn’t have a standout night, but showed an improved skill set of pass drops and mobility. Gilbert continued his steady play by collaring 3 tackles and all but assuring himself of a roster spot. Coy Wire either didn’t suit up or didn’t register any stats. Assuming Wire and Gilbert make the squad after the starters, the last spot is anyone’s guess. Robert James certainly helped himself on that front by collaring 2 solo tackles and one assist. Spencer Adkins has been unable to establish a great reason for the coaches to take a project on the roster. No correlation, but last year’s 6th round draft pick Wilrey Fontenot was cut from the team. No shocking news of Edmond Miles release with Gilbert’s strong play. What was your opinions of the LB corps on against the Rams? Does Peterson have enough gas left? How’s Nicholas looked so far to you? Who makes up the backup LB spot?
Unless he falls flat in the last two preseason games, Brent Grimes has all but wrapped up the starting cornerback position vacated by Dominique Foxworth. Well, let’s technically set the record straight: Grimes has reclaimed what was rightfully his before he got injured last season. Even though he may have issues with taller receivers, Grimes has shown his amazing athletic ability by making plays his frame wouldn’t normally dictate. Grimes had two great breaks on passes that should have been intercepted, but excellent plays nonetheless. Chris Owens is also making it very difficult to easily pick the starting corners. He has shown an uncanny nose for the football and a physical nature that Smith, Van Gorder, and Dimitroff covet. Chevis Jackson chipped in with 3 tackles and looks promising to continue his role at least in the nickel, where he shined last year. William Middleton hasn’t lit up the defense, but likely will make the roster as a future player and project. A report that Von Hutchins injury is still plaguing him may mean the end of his tenure as a Falcon, regardless of all the promise that accompanied his free agent signing a year ago. If the coaches decided to keep 5 CB’s on the roster, as they did last year, a combination of Houston, Grimes, Owens, Jackson, and Middleton may make it. Glen Sharpe and Tony Tiller continue to seem longshots at this point, maybe candidates for the practice squad. Keeping an extra CB on the practice squad is likely a good idea. Is Grimes a lock to start in Foxworth’s old spot? How much or how soon should Owens play? Chevis Jackson destined for the nickel? Has Von Hutchins time in red and black run out? How many CBs should we carry on our roster?
Thomas DeCoud looks to be settling into his new role at free safety with a good transition. His long range and quickness figures to play to his strengths as defensive back. DeCoud ended the game with 3 solo tackles and seems to be forming a nice chemistry with Erik Coleman, who’s moved to strong safety. News of William Moore returning to the practice field today delights many fans who have long waited to see the Missouri product in action. If the coaching staff goes with 5 safeties on the roster, as they did last year, the battle for the two backup spots is one of the most intense of the what remains of training camp. After a subpar showing in Detroit, Eric Brock rebounded nicely with 3 solo tackles and a game winning interception to seal the deal. Jamaal Fudge had a great night with 5 solo tackles and 1 assist on the night, and Antoine Harris had a better night in the secondary with 3 tackles. The battle for the last two spots look to boil down to Brock, Harris, and Fudge. Brock has no more practice squad eligibility left, so that may influence the decisions. How’s the safeties looking so far overall? Happy with the Coleman/DeCoud switch? Can Moore work himself into a rotation with limited time left in camp? Who would you keep between Brock, Harris, and/or Fudge?
Alright Bird Cagers, let’s hear it about all things Falcons Defense both against the Rams, and overall as we head into our big match-up against the vaunted Chargers offense?
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