What Should Falcons Do @ LB?

Few Options Available

Green Bay Packers running back John Kuhn (30) gets hit by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton (50), but Kuhn still scored the touchdown during the Packers 48-21 win in the NFC divisional playoff game.

Bad Memories (J.Getz/AJC)

 

The linebacker corps has been one of the most transitional positions on the entire team since the Dimitroff/Smith era began, especially the outside linebackers. In 2007, the Falcons boasted Keith Brooking at MLB Michael Boley and Demorrio Williams at the outside linebacker spots. When Dimitroff took over as General Manager, he immediately snagged Curtis Lofton from Oklahoma in the second round to be the old-school tackling machine in the middle for some time to come. That’s about where the continuity stops. In an effort to get younger, 2008 saw Brooking’s last year in a Falcons uniform and evidently Michael Boley didn’t mesh well with the new coaching staff because he was allowed to walk into free agency after having a Pro Bowl worthy year in 2007.

They signed Mike Peterson in the 2009 off-season as a free agent linebacker from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played for then defensive coordinator Mike Smith for most of his career. Even though he played most of his time at middle linebacker, Peterson would be taking over an outside linebacker position in Atlanta with Lofton manning the middle.

A Position in Transition

The other position has been mainly Stephen Nicholas’ for some time after finally working his way into a starting role when he was drafted by Rich McKay in the fourth round in 2007. Nicholas started last year all on his own, but took over for 1st round draft pick Sean Weatherspoon when he was injured later in the season. The Falcons have been “developing” several linebacker prospects in Robert James and Spencer Adkins, even though neither have glimpsed the field as linebackers on defense.

James was drafted in 2008 by Dimitroff in the 5th round and has bounced on and off the regular roster and practice squad after having many injury issues and this year was suspended for illegal substances. Spencer Adkins was drafted in the 6th round in the 2009 draft and was admittedly raw and would need time, but possessed a ton of speed and hitting ability that may one day translate at least into rotation duty. Even though Adkins has made the 53 man roster two years in a row, neither has pulled a snap as an outside linebacker on defense, but rather purely on special teams.

Sean Weatherspoon was a popular 1st round pick last year and was roundly considered the best linebacker prospect in the draft. He was off to a fast start and showed a ton of promise until he battled several injury issues towards midseason and was never able to get back up to speed. Obviously, Lofton and Weatherspoon are in the long term plans, but the issue remains on what to do at the other outside linebacker position. The linebacker corps has been good and fairly solid, but definitely not great.

As with the rest of the team, they were pretty good against the run, but have serious issues against the pass. This was no more evident than the last two losses of the season where the Falcons LB’s were torched by Drew Brees on Monday Night Football and the beatdown of the year with eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers putting on a passing clinic like they were at practice.

Good, but Certainly Not Great

As mentioned earlier, the linebacking corps has been solid against the run where Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson could swarm to the ball and use their physicality to bring down the runner. Even that started to show leaks towards the end of the season. That, however, leads perfectly into the next point: why would teams bother running the ball when they can pass up and down the field at will? The LB’s surely weren’t the sole culprits for the passing game because the secondary deserve their share as well, but anytime the Falcons needed a stop on 3rd down, you could guarantee that a running back or tight end would have no problem converting a 3rd and long right over the coverage of Lofton, Peterson, Nicholas, and Weatherspoon.

Issues in Coverage

Peterson Back? (C.Compton/AJC)

Lofton’s Achilles heel has always been his coverage skills and even though he has improved because of his dedication, some still believe he remains a 2 down linebacker incapable of standing up against the critical passing downs. Mike Peterson started the year at 34 years old and did a good job early on, but expectedly started to wear down as the season grinded on. Stephen Nicholas has always been extremely athletic and good pass rusher, but has also had his fair share of issues in coverage. Weatherspoon was drafted in part due to his excellent coverage skills and they were on display early on, but after injuries set in he was never the same. The late-season touchdown to TE Jimmy Graham right in front of Spoon to give the Saints the game particularly sticks out. The poor coverage by the LB’s help lead to the Falcons being one of the worst in terms of getting off the field on 3rd downs. The LB’s played a large role in the Falcons being ranked in the bottom half of the league (22nd) in pass defense.

Nonexistent Pass Rush

Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects, and pathetic to be honest, of the LB corps is their lack of pass rush and sacks. The scale of their pressure is beyond anemic. Some will say that their scheme is not conducive for the LB’s blitzing, but even that’s not a good excuse when you examine these numbers. Pretty awful……

Sacks by Linebackers

2008 – 2 (Stephen Nicholas -1; Curtis Lofton – 1)

2009 – 4 (Stephen Nicholas – 3; Mike Peterson – 1)

2010 – 4 (Curtis Lofton -2; Mike Peterson – 1; Sean Weatherspoon – 1)

That’s barely reaching double digits in THREE years by the ENTIRE linebacker corps. So many players from around the league could be used for embarrassment by comparison purposes, but Clay Matthews collared that total by himself as a rookie. Kroy Biermann matched that total all by himself in the same time frame and just started full-time this year. Whether it is the players or the scheme, there are no excuses and this is unacceptable for a team that wants to reach the ultimate goal. Here’s the few options the Falcons have at LB….

Re-Sign Stephen Nicholas

This is definitely the easiest option for the immediate future. Nicholas has shown glimpses of his athleticism and has started the last two years at one of the outside linebacker spots with pretty solid results. He has prototypical size at 6’3, 230 and is just 27 years old. Even though he didn’t have a sack this year, he had 78 tackles, 2 pass deflections, and 1 interception. Nicholas by far had the best season in terms of sacks among all LB’s the past 3 years, even if it was only 3. Surprisingly, Nicholas has been one of the most consistent players at outside linebacker. On paper, pairing Nicholas with Lofton and Weatherspoon would give the Falcons one of their fastest and most talented LB corps in quite some time. Seems like a no-brainer, but Nicholas was quoted as talking about how “good the Detroit Lions were with building up there and raved about their defensive outlook with Ndamukong Suh.” Seemed like a very odd statement to make since free agency is so up in the air and struck a little nerve with fans. He then followed it up with this quote: “This free-agent thing is crazy, but Atlanta, they always do the right things,” he said. “Great organization, and we’ll just see what happens. We got a lot of stuff going on with the collective bargaining agreement, and … we have a little time to see what happens.” With seeming greater needs at defensive end and cornerback, letting Nicholas go wouldn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense at this point, but who knows what Dimitroff’s plan is. Does Nicholas have the ultimate bargaining chip in knowing the Falcons need him?

Go with Peterson, Adkins, or James

Hopefully Just Rookie Struggles (AP)

Mike Peterson has been the class of the locker room and an amazing captain and mentor to the younger players, particularly the linebackers. He showed last year that he still had some gas left in the tank, but as the season wore on, his 34 year old body started to show the expected signs of slowing down. Peterson was still a beast in the run game, but his coverage skills were painfully lacking towards the end of the season. He could sign a one or two year deal with the expectation that he would be helping to lead and mentor younger guys to take over, but splitting much more time almost as a backup role. Whether he would do that remains to be seen, but its hard to imagine going another 16 games (or 18) with 35 year old Peterson as the main starter. Robert James and Spencer Adkins may finally get their chance to grab ahold of a starting spot. TD and Coach Smith have been raving about the two since they were drafted. Adkins about having speed to burn with a killer instinct and James with a hitting ability close to William Moore’s. The glowing reviews haven’t translated into any playing time at linebacker though. Both might be tad short at 5’11 with Adkins weighing 242 and James a little light at 220. If Nicholas isn’t resigned, they just might finally get their shot.

Sign a Free Agent OLB

Like many other positions, this seems like a highly unlikely scenario, but you never know. If they were going to delve into the free agent market, wouldn’t they just re-sign Nicholas who has been a Falcon since 2007? You never do know though….

Chad Greenway – 6’2 – 242 – Age: 28 – Minnesota

One of the only pure 4-3 outside linebackers on the market. Not a sack machine, but one of the all-around best 4-3 OLBs in the league and certainly as a free agent. Had 109 tackles, 3 pass defenses, but only 1 sack. His high sack total came in 2008 with 5.5. May have more tackles and better coverage skills, but does his lack of pass rush make up for it?

Rocky McIntosh – 6’2 – 239 – Age: 28 – Washington

Played inside linebacker for the Redskins after they changed over to the 3-4 and didn’t have a great adjustment. Could play OLB in a 4-3 and is also a superb tackler and even collared 2 sacks as an ILB in a 3-4. Had 3 sacks in 2007, 2 in 2008 before recording zero in 2009. Would another scheme change back to a 4-3 make sense for signing a new free agent?

Thomas Davis – 6’0 – 240 – Age: 27 – Carolina

One of the most favorite Bulldogs of all time would make a ton of Georgia fans happy with a return to the Peach State. Known for his bruising hits and fantastic athleticism, Davis converted to OLB after playing safety in college. Played under none other than Brian Van Gorder at UGA, but seems unlikely the Falcons would shell out dough for a player with two knee injuries in two years.

Other notable free agent OLB’s: James Anderson, Kirk Morrison, Ernie Sims, Stephen Cooper, Tavares Gooden among many others.

Draft an OLB for Second Straight Year

The Falcons could elect to go with an outside for the second year in a row after selecting Sean Weatherspoon in the first round last year. Also seems somewhat unlikely the Falcons would be willing to spend two 1st round draft picks on the same position in consecutive years, not to mention the fact that they would basically have two rookies at both OLB spots. Nonetheless, you never know what’s up Dimitroff’s sleeve:

Akeem Ayers – 6’4 – 255 – Forty: 4.7 – UCLA

A physical specimen that may not even be around by pick #27. Totaled 24.5 tackles for a loss last two years (29.5 in career) and 14 total sacks in three years (4 as a junior). Probably will project more to a 3-4 OLB and Dimitroff usually stays away from juniors declaring early. Not a sack artist.

Bruce Carter – 6’3 – 235 – Forty: 4.6 – North Carolina

Doesn’t have eye-popping stats where he collared only 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks as senior. May do a lot of things good, but doesn’t seem to do anything particularly great. Could he start immediately? Doubtful.

Justin Houston – 6’3 – 258 – Forty: 4.75 – Georgia

Will be a very hot commodity in the new drive towards 3-4 teams seeking that excellent pass rusher. A hometown favorite that was a sack machine and a bright spot on an otherwise dreary Georgia defense. Totaled 33.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in his last two years (10 sacks as a junior). Definitely seems to be a 3-4 OLB, but should Dimitroff continually overlook talent just because it doesn’t fit a perfect scheme? Does the name Clay Matthews ring a bell?

Mason Foster – 6’2 – 242 – Forty: 4.7 – Washington

Would probably be a major reach at #27, but projects to be a very good linebacker at the next level. Took in 27 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks as a junior and senior (6.5 sacks last year). Very good blitzer and also fluid in pass coverage. Pairing Foster with Weatherspoon sure would bring some athleticism to the LB corps.

Other notable prospects: Dontay Moch, Chris Carter, Colin McCarthy

So there you have it Cagers. What should the Falcons do about their linebacking corps: re-sign Nicholas, roll with one of the younger guys, or take another OLB in the first round?

Set the OLB with Lofton and Spoon (Your Turn)

-Straight up, what should the Falcons do at LB?

-Do you feel confident in Lofton and Spoon going forward?

-Can Lofton prove to be a true 3 down LB?

-Worried about Spoon or just injuries as a rookie?

-Should the Falcons pay up for Stephen Nicholas?

-Major mistake or blessing if Nicholas walks?

-Did Nicholas’ comments about Detroit bug you?

-Should Falcons explore free agency for an OLB?

-Would it be wise or dumb to draft another OLB in 1st?

-Of all OLB prospects, who’s your favorite?

-Does scheme really matter for draft picks?

-Should Falcons consider Justin Houston?

207 comments Add your comment

BobbyDawg

February 24th, 2011
11:36 pm

Lofton is definitly a keeper. He just needs some help. Mason Foster or Justin Houston would do fine. I think LB should be our first pick in the draft. The receivers will be fine as is if MM will just let MR open the game up a little bit more by letting him do his own thing. The running game could use help, but we still don’t know about Norwood. If he could come back healthy and stay that way it may be the shot in the arm we need at RB.

jp

February 24th, 2011
11:53 pm

PRETTY EASY: LEAVE IT ALONE AND RESIGN NICHOLAS. They have so many other positions of need like DE, wr and CB. If they see someone dropping late in the draft than take him but not in the first 3 rounds.

jp

February 25th, 2011
12:00 am

geez, sometimes the AJC writes some of the worst articles. LB is one position of relative strength. Unless we’re going to a 34 than keep the players we have and focus on other positions.

ATLJBO

February 25th, 2011
12:20 am

Spencer Adkins saw a couple of snaps this year.but yea… I would resign Nicholas… I honestly felt like Nic was our all around best LB the last 2 years…But Nic changing agents says that he either wants more money (then we are offering him) or he is looking to move on… I feel like we are making a HUGE mistake if we bring back Peterson as a starter.

I think Kirk Morrison would be a good fit… His speed and coverage ability… But i dont think TD wants to go get a 29 year old LB…. A healthy Thomas Davis would e a perfect fit.

At the end of the day.. I can see us drafting a LB around the 3rd round or so… I was told LB was one of the positions we have scouted hard this year,…

Colin McCarthy is a guy i would keep my eye on.

Chucktown38

February 25th, 2011
12:22 am

jp you are right, LB not the greatest need for the falcons.I say get the best WR available in the first round or trade for Sidney Rice. he should of been drafted by the falcons a few years ago anyway.Then look for a DE like Cliff Mathews form SC this kid is good needs to add strength to his game but he is a football player.Then maybe a LB for depth or to replace Peterson.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emily Smith, D. Orlando Ledbetter. D. Orlando Ledbetter said: AJC's fan blog: What Should Falcons Do @ LB? http://bit.ly/f5jIa3 [...]

Rikus

February 25th, 2011
1:10 am

Just draft a LB in the middle rounds, and call it a day. Resign Nicholas, if the price is right. Ditto on Peterson, but don’t pay much.

[...] is a new Post at What Should Falcons Do @ LB? | Atlanta Falcons: Bird Cage. Few Options Available The linebacker corps has been one of the most transitional positions on the [...]

nash

February 25th, 2011
1:37 am

drafting a back up linebacker in the late rounds would not be a bad idea if Peterson is released but only for a back up like Dent to spell Lofton in some situation. Drafting another starter would be a bad idea in my opinion because the core is solid when healthy and only spoon has had a injure shorten season. Any word on Dominique Frank?

Big Ray

February 25th, 2011
1:51 am

LOL at the morons who can’t tell when they’re reading an AJC columnist and when they’re reading a fan blog.

If the Falcons go OLB in the first or even second round of the draft, it has to be Justin Houston. However, he won’t last to the 2nd round (at least not when WE draft).

However, a trade of picks (our #27) to gather up picks in the second round, including a much higher second round pick is adviseable.

Otherwise, first round pick has to go elsewhere. However, if Houston is there, you have to consider him. He adds pass rush.

Nicholas is not a bad re-sign. He’s got some skills. I’m not too hot on any of the free agent OLBs available, although Greenway and McIntosh are good players.

I’m interested in see how well Spoon does next season, after he comes back healthier and stronger.

Big Ray

February 25th, 2011
1:53 am

Peterson is not starter level anymore. Bring him back for a year maybe as a suitable backup MLB or something. Any more than that and it’s a waste of money. Not that I didn’t/don’t like Peterson, but we need to keep to the Patriot way of how we deal with veterans. Don’t let ‘em stick around as starters for too long. We did that with Brooking.

Cue CAJ’s usual rant… :roll:

just me

February 25th, 2011
2:42 am

I think our scheme is the reason we are not seeing LBs with many/any sacks. Blitz Lofton on 3rd down instead of trying to hide that he doesn’t have the best cover skills. Let him cause chaos in the backfield.

I think Spoon Lofton and Nic have the makings of a great LB core if we can please get a pressure def scheme and not that BBDB garbage, and only if Nic wants to be here. If his heart is here then bring him back if not then let him go. I think he may be carrying a chip on his should about us drafting Spoon last year. As for his Detroit comment maybe he sees the need for improvement from our DTs, or maybe he doesn’t like the style of def we are running. Just a couple guesses.

I think Greenway got the frachise tag by Minn. Which leaves Ray Edwards a free agent, but so is Charles. I don’t see us signing a free agent LB from another team.

I think we should keep Peterson if he is willing to work as a mentor and reliever. I think he would fair better back at MLB though.

It is disappointing to me that all the teams “prospects” have seen little to no game time other than special teams. You want to help keep the defense fresh at the end of the year, then give the prospect PT even if it is at the end of a game that is already in the bag. They get some downs under their belts and the starters get a little rest.

just me

February 25th, 2011
2:49 am

Look for the falcons to draft a LB this year. I would love to see them trade down and pick-up some extra 2nd round picks. I think if Houston is the BPA whenever we pick in the 2nd round that we will draft him. I don’t think we will draft a LB with the 27th overall pick. If we don’t trade down I think we will see an OL or CB pick, maybe a WR or suprise RB pick if certain players are still on the board.

Ed

February 25th, 2011
3:36 am

Great work as always D3. The one obvious thing to do is to re-sign Nicholas. My preference for other upgrades at OLB would be to pick up a free agent.Then you can look in the middle rounds in the draft to see if one of your favorites has fallen you. Our need is much greater at DL and WR, but once again picking at 27 you have to go with any position player that the Falcons have highly rated that falls to them. The only position that would be excluded would be QB. Anywhere else, if that stud player falls, you gotta grab him.

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 25th, 2011
4:39 am

The situation we have is in D3’s first statement: “few options available”. Considering the greater options available at other much-more-needed positions, it seems logical to fill the positions with “better options” and draft our need at linebacker.

CB: A plethora of CBs are available in free agency but Champ Bailey would be the best option to fit in an Atlanta uniform. If not, there are some good names available in FA, i.e., Johnathan Joseph and Richard Marshall. Unless we trade up to recieve one of the better elite corners in the draft, none is greater than the CBs we’ve drafted in the past three years. We still have players that are developing into a starting role on defense.

WR: Look at San Diego’s wide receivers and take your pick.

OT: Draft a starting left tackle (I like Dereck Sherrod) and move Sam Baker to his natural position at right tackle. I hate to see Clabo walk but he may cost too much. Besides, with Baker, Clabo can be replaced.

DE: Y’all already know my theory about DE development. My study has shown that it takes, at least, three years for a rookie DE to develop into a pro-bowl type end. Considering that, we ought to look at players that are ready to meet third-year expectations, e.g., Charles Johnson or consider our own, i.e., Lawrence Sidbury. I like Ryan Kerigan; and if he’s available by the time we pick, he’d make a wonderful marriage with Biermann for years to come.

LB: Here is where we could kill two birds with one stone. It seems to me (but what do I know?) that if a LB can rush from an end position in 3-4 position, then he could also rush from a linebacker position in a 4-3. If Justin Houston is available, he must be taken with our number one pick. The problem with our linebacker corps is two-fold. No one can keep up with speedier tight ends and/or running backs (Spoon ought to be able to help out with better coverage with one year under his belt) and we have no beef at DT that can stop blockers from getting to our linebackers (recall Ed Hartwell’s statement about Gravy Jackson). We need beef on the line, at DT, before we throw our linebackers under the bus.

Contrary to what most may believe, linebacker is our greatest weakness. No other position can be filled through the draft that would solidify our return to playoff contention. Draft LB/DE and fill our lesser needs via free agency. Problem solved.

I really miss You, Shawty B.

SeminoleWarrior

February 25th, 2011
6:19 am

D3, hit me up with an email when you can. I have an idea that I want to run past you.

The combine is here so my staff here at TeePee sports, still bearing a heavy heart, will be working to make our newest Angel proud with our assessment, analysis, and early draft inputs. She would have it no other way.

LB issues. Everyone in the Cage knows where I stand on that position. The Spoon Express rolled in last season and showed flashes of the excellence we will see in the future. Though derailed by the injury bug, I expect him back in full effect this season.

Early, as I have stated, I love Mason Foster of Washington. This kid is going to be awesome. He is not the fastest guy but he does it all. And he has a motor that will not quit. Is he worth the shot at 27 though? I’m truly torn on that. But he is definately the LB I am watching most in this year’s combine.

There is no doubt that the Falcons should sign Nicholas. He is a quality player and I think he would make a very nice WLB with Spoon on the SLB. Both would give the Falcons a signficant Blitz package. Through in improve presence up front (Charles Johnson) and we would be primed.

Singletary

February 25th, 2011
6:41 am

(Don’t kill me for the double negative:) I don’t dispute your contention that our LBs were part of the debacle that was the GB playoff game, because they were on the field.

I wasn’t watching coaches tape but there were plenty of shots on successive plays where even an average fan could see a 20-25 yard “doughnut hole” with our defenders presumably trying not to get torched framing the sidelines. That’s the “zone” Rodgers thought he was playing in, but I call it BVG’s Ineptitude. How could he NOT change the strategy over halftime? Is he a one trick pony? Brain doesn’t fire any more like Algernon? I’ve seen kids draw more complex schemes in the DIRT. We will not enjoy a Super Bowl visit until our coaches can change-up the regular season playbook AND make changes on the fly.

Sports Review

February 25th, 2011
6:55 am

[...] What Should Falcons Do @ LB?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)This was no more evident than the last two losses of the season where the Falcons LB's were torched by Drew Brees on Monday Night Football and the beatdown of the year with eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers putting on a passing clinic like … [...]

DC DirtyBird

February 25th, 2011
6:57 am

I agree with Seminole Warrior about standing pat with our LB core. Hopefully Nicholas doesn’t pull a Boley and price himself out of Atlanta. If we draft an OLB, I say we stay away from the “high motor” guys. In Atlanta we seem to fall in love with the “high motor” guy (Bierman) yet not recognize that you can only have so many of those types on your team and they can only play in certain positions. OLB is one of those positions. You don’t acknowledge a lack of coverage skills by the OLB’s and then suggest putting a guy who’s known for his “motor” in position to deal with the Jimmy Graham’s, the Kellen Winslows and that stable of TE’s up in NE. We’ve dealt with Keith Brooking already and we say where that got us.

knievel

February 25th, 2011
7:10 am

I really appreciate the education you give us D3. I say get Houston from GA. He had a great season at GA last year despite the sucky season the team had. I am excited about the draft this year, and the prospect of the team getting even better!! LETS GO FALCONS!! Can’t wait to see the combine Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.. Get those speaches off NFL network and show us what we wanna see, Young guys trying out for their career!!

Samuel

February 25th, 2011
8:20 am

The safe bet is keep what you have. Now if you look at the draft it has to be a linebacker who’s not injury prone. The Falcons seem to suffer from draft picks getting the injury bug early on.

joewhite

February 25th, 2011
9:13 am

I would resign mike peterson to a one year deal make him a 2down linebacker, resign nichols and see if spencer or james is ready. LB is not our biggest need plus spoon will take over on third downs this year for lofton but lofton did make some plays in coverage.We need to add more weapons around matt with a rb who can catch and releive turner, a wes walker like wr who we can dump the ball too and our get open within two or three yards, and cb’s who can cover. Of course we know that a de on the other side of abe is the first thing we need to address. I am sure we will get our needs meet.Go falcons

McNasty

February 25th, 2011
9:21 am

After the combine things will come into better focus on physical talent, attitude, football instincts and work ethic. I would not mind a hybrid DE/OLB if he could start or bring an immediate impact at #27. All first round picks by definition should do that. If no advailable player is evaluated as such, trade for as many high picks in 2nd and third rounds as you can get in this year. I trust TD & Smittys’ evalsuations for our system. With FA’s, base any signings on a ranking for their specific productivity potential within our system. Regardless of our most pressing need. If we can upgrade the club with the proverbal “best player available” then go get um.

McNasty

February 25th, 2011
9:23 am

I wish they had spell check.

jp

February 25th, 2011
9:34 am

There are so many upper echelon DE in this draft and if the Falcons don’t take at least one in the first round than it’s gonna be highly embarrassing

uga_b

February 25th, 2011
10:20 am

D3, Coy Wire…

uga_b

February 25th, 2011
10:25 am

Well, they have resigned James and Wire. So, I figure they resign Nicholas or Peterson. That leaves Lofton, Spoon, Nicholas, Wire, James, and Adkins. So probably a draft pick here but I don’t see it in the first round unless it is a clear BPA.

And I love Justin Houston and think he could be great. He is athletic enough to play LB in a 4-3. Just don’t see us going this way. As long as we don’t take TJ Duckett, I will be good.

waynester

February 25th, 2011
10:44 am

If we’re serious about another rookie LB there actually should be some excellent value available at #27. Only a couple of teams ahead of us even need LB and they need OLB. Akeem Ayers and Justin Houston will probably be gone by the time we pick but The #3-#5 OLBs should still be there and the #1-#3 ILBs will be, too. OLBs include Mark Herzlich from BC and Mason Foster(SW’s fave). ILBs include #1 Martez Wilson from Illinois, Greg Jones from Mich St, Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant from UNC.Most of these guys will still be around in the Mid-2nd if we want to trade down and save even more $$$.

D3

February 25th, 2011
10:53 am

Great Best Day of the Week Cage Fam! — We begin our daily honor of our Beloved Angel Sarah B. looking down and being apart of this forum in spirit. She would be ready to go on this topic, so let’s get to it.

jp — Several things here. First of all welcome to The Cage. Second of all, we can do without the vitriol directed at me or any other person. Quite frankly, I’m not in the mood for any insults considering we lost one of our favorite people on this blog entirely too early. Third, if you checked the date, its late February, a full 6-7 months before the season starts, so I’ll probably get to concession stands workers in the GA Dome before the season rolls around. It’s a blog topic to simply either agree or disagree and discuss. I happen to totally agree with you on Nicholas. But it is something to debate if he demands insane money because he believes that he’s got the Falcons in a box.

More later……..

The Real Falcon

February 25th, 2011
11:01 am

Die Hard Falcon

February 25th, 2011
12:28 pm

Hello Everyone, Happy Friday D3, I’m pretty new to the site, but I’m a long time Falcons Fanatic. I am sorry to hear that someone passed on, my condolences to all who’ve been touched by this.

As for this blog, I definitely say don’t use our 1st or 2nd round pick on LB, far more pressing needs. Resign Nicholas, if the rate is commensurate w/ his production (He’s not shown himself to be a beast or anything). If TD and MS are talking up James & Adkins, then this would be the year to see it. I’m in love w/ the idea of Torrey Smith at #27, and if one of the top 2 TE’s are still there, then take them in the 2nd, unless a worthy DE is there, then wait til the 3rd for TE. I know Greenway was Franchised so he’s out, I didn’t know Ernie Sims was a FA, I think he’d worth checking out, otherwise stick w/ the plan, the plan will work (w/ regards to TD and MS). I do believe Brian VG needs to scheme better or be replaced, we are getting very little pressure and it’s making our secondary look worse than it is. Of course making the sack when you have a chance doesn’t hurt either. No matter what, I just hope we have a season, this CBA crap needs to be fixed and the FALCONS NEED A CHAMPIONSHIP!!!

ymmotretsof

February 25th, 2011
12:57 pm

I still think they should look at the other side of the ball.A back that has outside speed or a catcher run past a corner and catch the ball.The defence has problems but picking on that side of the ball hasn’t been all that great so far.Besides we don’t know if it’s players or coaches yet maybe both.Ms.Singletary had a good point the coaches don’t seem to know how to change a game plan when it’s not working.

coach smith

February 25th, 2011
1:30 pm

Simple:

Draft Justin Houston in the first round and then TRADE UP in the second round to draft Cameron Heyward or sign free agent Charles Johnson from Carolina by way of UGA, then pick up Champ Bailey and the defense will be ready to go

coach smith

February 25th, 2011
1:32 pm

personally I would still love to see the Falcons trade this year’s and next year’s first round picks to move up and take AJ GREEN, we need big time playmakers NOW, the Falcons’ window is 5 years, we can’t take projects and “hope”

Hamad Meander

February 25th, 2011
1:36 pm

I think Nicholas had a fine year and he seemed to be around the ball a lot. I like a healthy Weatherspoon, Lofton, Nicholas line up, though we don’t have the prototypical pass rusher in this group. However, in the 4-3 defense, you are expecting your DEs to put on the pass rush more than in the 3-4 where the linebackers are bigger and play closer to the line of scrimmage.

If a pass rushing specialist is available in the first round, fine! I see no need for a backup linebacker or replacement for our three projected starters at this time.

I like our linebackers, and they can be even more effective with more QB pressure from the front four. It’s not easy to find three linebackers with good speed like our guys have.

RambleOn84

February 25th, 2011
1:40 pm

Bruce Carter is a stud…he didn’t have great numbers because their whole defense was just nasty…I really don’t care for UNC, but I would be happy with any of their defensive players.

Though Quan Sturdivant is listed as an ILB, he has the athleticism and skills necessary to play OLB for us.

darrell starks

February 25th, 2011
1:52 pm

LB are good, NICHOLAS, LOFTON, WEATHERSPOON.
GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!

Ken Strickland

February 25th, 2011
2:01 pm

STIRG D’NAHSIF-I doubt if the Falcons will draft a CB in the 1st rd, considering we spent a fortune on FA CB DRobinson and BGrimes earned Pro Bowl honors. We’ve also drafted 2 CB’s(COwens and DFranks)that are currently being developed. BGrimes has played at a Pro Bowl level the last 2yrs without the benefit of a pass rush., so just imagine how much better he’s be with an effective pass rush.

SNicholas appears to be about as good as what’s available in FA, and he has room for improvement. It’s not like we’d be desperate to acquire a starting quality LB if we resign SNicholas. A starting unit of SNicholas, CLofton and SWeatherspoon wouldn’t be bad at all.

With JAbraham having a rebound season, and with us already developing DE LSidbury, and KBiermann, who could potential have a breakout season, I’m not convinced DE will be a 1st rd priority.

However, our starting RG, LG and RT are FA’s, our starting OC might retire at anytime, and our starting LT is shakey. Of the 4 potential replacements, MJohnson & JCrawley have only 1yr of experience, and JValdez and GReynolds 2yrs. With this situation, I’d think addressing our OL issues would be our #1 first rd priority, especially with last yrs pass protection issues, and the fact we depend so much on our ability to run the ball.

JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION.

JB FALCON

February 25th, 2011
2:10 pm

Ken, based on your third paragraph re the OL, there have been several folks picking M Pouncy? Have you given him or that idea any thought?

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

February 25th, 2011
2:14 pm

Charles Johnson is what we need most. Add him, and lots of other things quickly fall into place…

Hamad Meander

February 25th, 2011
3:00 pm

Ken & JB – I agree that in its current state, our offensive line situation is a bit shaky. I highly favor resigning Dahl, Blalock, and Clabo, and I’m not convinced we have suffient talent in the 2nd string. Having said that, I don’t want to see the Falcons draft ANY center or guard in round one. They must have thought highly of Joe Hawley enough to spend a 4th round pick on him, even though he didn’t even show up on some mocks at all. Mike Johnson was picked in the 3rd round, probably a round or two higher than I saw last year. I guess we have to give those guys time to develop and see what they can do.

D3

February 25th, 2011
3:04 pm

BobbyDawg — Would love to pair Mason Foster with Lofton and Spoon and if we could get him in the 3rd than awesome, but I don’t see that happening, but we’ll see.

ATLJBO — Agreed. That’s going to be our easiest and best option, but like you mentioned, i think Nic knows he’s got Atlanta by the cojones because he’s been our most consistent OLB since Smitty/Dimitroff took over.

Chuck — It will be interesting to see if we bring back Peterson at all. I can’t fathom the idea of bringing him back to start at the age of 35. Sorry, but his time has passed.

Rikus — Well said. I say even pay a bit more if need be for Nicholas, but it will be interesting to see how much he will ask for.

nash — Good points. No word on Franks. He got an INT against Arizona and completely disappeared. The Falcons are like the Patriots in being lock and key on their players progress.

Big Ray — Great minds think alike. I’m getting to write a little comment about Justin Houston. I know in my heart that TD will not even consider Houston because of his supposed “lack of fit” to the system. He brags about that all the time. I just disagree a little. Sometimes is up to the coaches to fit their scheme around great players such as a guy named Matthews that we passed on.

just me — Agreed. I thought last year that the starting combo of Lofton/Spoon/Nicholas should be the day one starters. Smith loves him some dang vets I guess.

Falconsfan13

February 25th, 2011
3:19 pm

Nicholas should take over Peterson’s starting role. I think the coaching staff needs to learn to play to our players strengths, Lofton, Spoon, and Nicholas each are capable of rushing the passer, they should come up with schemes that compliment our players abilities, instead of schemes that get our guys exposed. If you sack the QB then he can’t burn you through the air…. DE is our primary need in this draft. I will say that Akeem Ayers is a really good player, and according to most mock drafts he could still be lurking in round 2… I think mostly the coaches need to emphasize the basics of blitzing and when you get to the QB, bring HIM DOWN!!!!! and that’s for all 3 levels, D-LINE, LBs, and Secondary. Ready for Falcons football

JB FALCON

February 25th, 2011
3:20 pm

Turnip, Chs Johnson would by my answer also but the prospect of him going anywhere is getting slim as each day goes by.

JB FALCON

February 25th, 2011
3:28 pm

RE: Charles Johnson
Pat Yasinskas (1:10 PM)

I really don’t think he’s going to hit free agency in the true sense. Panthers are putting restricted tag on him and still have hope of working out a long-ter deal.

Gene

February 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

Sarah B’s Memorial Service. Cagers just wanted to let you know that there will be a “Celebration of Life” in Sarah’s honor next Saturday 3/5/2011 to share fond memories, photos, and stories. We will also have prayer and observe moment of silence. It will be from 4 to 6 and casual (falcons gear encouraged) as Sarah would have wanted. I will be hosting at my home. For those of you who would like to attend please email me at genetunes@yahoo.com and I will respond with my address. If anyone knew where Sarah lived i am directly across the street.

Dawson Devitt (D3)

February 25th, 2011
3:48 pm

Ed — Thanks my man. Extremely well put. No sense in shuffling around the LB corps for no reason. I’m high on RB or WR personally, with the assumption we hit FA for DE. Edwards or Johnson would be light years better.

Stirg — Superb points all around. Sure wish you’d stay in here like you used to. On the CB situation, you know TD is not going to go out and spend big dough on starting CB’s, even if we’d all like it. I can’t imagine us not re-signing Brent Grimes since he’s homegrown and developed talent. He made the Pro Bowl so you know he will not be moving to nickel.

Singletary — I completely agree with you on BVG. If you go back a few posts and look up the one titled “No More Excuses,” I shredded BVG and his anemic play-calling. I absolutely put much of our ineptness on him. Just like MM, he’s entirely too predictable. Which has led to think that Smitty is WAY too involved in every phase of the game. The reason I say that is because that is not the same BVG that coached the D at UGA.

More later. Until then have a great weekend!

And once again…….We miss you sweet angel Sarah B!

blord

February 25th, 2011
4:09 pm

I would love to see a playmaking LB but I agree with the other guys that DE has to be fixed. I would acutally love to see us draft a DE and sing one in FA. Of course we may have a playmaker in Spoon but it is still to early to tell and he hasn’t been on the field enough yet.

Question: Do I understand correctly that unless the owners and players can reach a deal prior to the draft then no trades will be able to take place – meaning that everyone will have to draft at their pick?

Paddy O

February 25th, 2011
5:15 pm

My problem with our LB corps was in the run, also – frequently our guys, playing the obligatory 10-15 yards off, would cheat up. With our front four, we usually gave the center space – this created two potential, immediately holes that the RB can exploit, with the LB supposedly filling the hole he chooses. But, on at least 40%, maybe even 65% of these run plays,that cheat up meant that the LB was playing in the same plane as the O line guys, had prematurely filled one of the two holes, then usually got “trapped” on that plane by either our own DT, or the center. Which left an easy, undefended hole for a good RB to exploit. We never really corrected this “over pursuit” tendency. That said, I still perceive our DE as a relatively weak spot with poor depth, although our RB slot has even less depth. As stated, it depends on two variables: Who is available at 27, and what is the likelihood they, or a reasonable facsimile, will be available when we select in R2? My priority list, based on availability: 1) Kerrigan; 2) Houston; 3) Carimi/Pouncy/Solder (highly unlikely); 4) LeShoure; 5) Torrey Smith. I still lean toward the 3-4 scheme being more effective/flexible, but it must be recognized: HC MS won’t change this. But, that leads back: In a 4-3 – the front 4 must get adequate pressure to disrupt a QB rhythm, which would prompt dump off passes, which mandates cover capacity by the LB’s & safeties – Smith & BVG must know we don’t have those LB’s in house, so that level of the D needs to be addressed in some fashion – or we adjust our Safety play.

Jack Tatum

February 25th, 2011
5:38 pm

Should have drafted Clay Matthews. TD has no clue.