One of the biggest question marks and points of concern for the upcoming 2010 Atlanta Falcons season is the looming suspension of one of the Birds best players in defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. A lapse in judgment will likely cost the Falcon to miss any number of games. During the 2009 season, Babineaux was arrested for drug possession and originally charged with intent to sell. The details of the incident showed a lack of judgment at best and a disgraceful episode of immaturity and failure of leadership at worst. This isn’t the first time that #95 has been involved with the law either. In 2007, Babineaux was involved in an incident with his girlfriend in an animal cruelty case. He was cleared of all charges and was found innocent of any wrongdoings when the incident was thrown out. Babineaux should get the benefit of this being his first and only real incident, but the fact that he was arrested before will stay in the minds of fans, even though he was proven to do nothing wrong. No one knows what Roger Goodell has in store for Babineaux and the Falcons, but he certainly has no problem instituting discipline on players either found guilty in actual court or even just the court of public opinion. Jonathan Babineaux had his best year as a Falcon and is obviously in the long-term plans (or firmly was at least) since Thomas Dimitroff re-upped Babs during the 2008 season, not taking any chance of him hitting the open market. For a team and franchise that has prided itself on developing a high character team, this certainly casts some doubt on the upcoming season and how Babineaux’s likely suspension will affect the 2010 campaign, both technically and emotionally. Let the debate begin…………
Gwinnett police originally stated both men would be charged with intent to distribute, but this afternoon released a statement clarifying the charges. Babineaux and Robinson were charged with possessing more than an ounce of marijuana, but not with intent to distribute. The charges are still felonies. In addition to the possession charges, Babineaux is charged with having no tag light and driving without a license and with an expired tag. He also was charged with tinting his car windows too much.
As a benchmark to guess how big or small Babineaux’s suspension might be, here’s a look at a few recent judgments handed down by Commissioner Goodell. Obviously these cases aren’t the exact same as Babineaux’s, but they might provide somewhat of a guidepost to where Babs suspension might be.
Adam “Pacman” Jones – Entire 2007 season – 10 Incidents & Multiple Arrests
Chris Henry – First 8 games of 2007 season – 4 Arrests in 14 Months
Tank Johnson – First 8 games of 2007 season – DUI and Weapons Possession; 3rd Arrest in NFL
Adam “Pacman” Jones – Indefinite 2008 – Incident
Donte Stallworth – Entire 2009 season – Vehicular Manslaughter
Ben Roethlisberger – First 6 games of 2010 season – 2 Alleged Sexual Assault Cases
Judging the above suspensions doled out by Roger Goodell, it seems as though Jonathan Babineaux likely won’t receive any more than 4 games maximum and possibly less. It also depends how far Gwinnett County’s District Attorney wants to prosecute and what kind of punishment he may seek. Most of the above cases involved players that had multiple incidents and arrests, and since the previous animal cruelty case was thrown out where he was found innocent, this arrest has to be treated as a first time offense. As the Falcons remember from last year though, 4 games can make or break a season (4-1 became 5-5 really quick).
Even though John Abraham may get all the attention as the best defensive linemen for the Falcons, Jonathan Babineaux made a Pro Bowl worthy case in 2009 after having a magnificent year both in terms of personal stats and overall defensive line play. Babineaux recorded more sacks than any other Falcons defensive lineman in 2009 from the DT position, which is usually withheld for defensive ends alone. In fact, according to ProFootballFocus.com (the premiere statistics website), Babineaux was the best defensive tackle in the entire NFL when all areas of the game were included in a comprehensive format.
Overall Ranking All NFL Defensive Tackles – 1st (19.2 Rating)
Pass Rushing – 5th (9.4 Rating)
Pass Coverage – 1st (5.0 Rating)
Run Defense – 22nd (5.8 Rating)
Sacks – 1st (6.5 sacks)
QB Hits – T-12th (5)
QB Pressures – 2nd (25)
Batted Passes – T-13th (2)
Tackles – 4th (39)
Stops [Resulted in Offensive Failure] – 1st (43)
The stats speak for themselves and Babineaux was completely robbed of a Pro Bowl invitation. Even though his run defense was a little lower, he was by far the best defensive lineman for the Falcons in 2009. Could you imagine what it would’ve been like without Babineaux?
The Falcons top brass obviously took into account the tenuous nature of their defensive tackle position in this years draft. The combination of Babineaux’s looming suspension and Peria Jerry’s injury history combined to make DT a much higher priority than some believed. Defensive tackle was surely a possibility with their 1st overall pick where they worked out both Brian Price and Jared Odrick. They went with OLB Sean Weatherspoon first, and immediately followed him with defensive tackle Corey Peters out of Kentucky. Many fans felt that it was a reach, but considering the run on DTs at that point and Peters extreme production at Kentucky, it looks to be a good pick. The Falcons made defensive tackle one of the deepest positions on the field. Excluding Babineaux and Jerry, the Falcons have a plethora of talent to compete for either 2 or 3 spots. Vance Walker and Thomas Johnson both played well as starters last year, and Trey Lewis appears to be back with a vengeance ready to prove he’s gained his rookie form back. The fierce competition should produce someone ready to step in and up.
The Falcons have made a concerted effort to sign, draft, and bring in high character, hard working players in a move to make the entire team full of good player and even better men. Although its hard for fans to rid themselves of Babs initial arrest (animal cruelty charge), this has to be treated as his first offense and obviously he has a chance to make it right with his teammates, coaches, ownership, and fans. Before the incident, Babineaux was quickly replacing John Abraham as the new leader of the defensive line. He has appeared contrite, apologetic, and honest with everyone involved and looks to be a major part of the Falcons future. However, the ball is now in his court to prove that it was a one-time mistake and not a bad trend. The Falcons can ill afford to have one of their best players out for several games if they want to make a serious playoff run, and the question now remains: how much will Babineaux’s looming suspension hurt the 2010 Atlanta Falcons?
-What’s your thoughts on Babineaux’s arrest and charge?
-How many games will Babs be suspended?
-One time lapse or bad trend?
-Can Babineaux become the leader of the defense again?
-Who can fill in for #95 during his possible absence?
-How good do you feel about Falcons defensive tackle depth?