What Should Falcons Do @ OLB?

Is Stephen Nicholas in Falcons Long-Term Plans?

Should Birds Re-up #54? (J.Crawford/AJC)

The main conversations regarding the Falcons off-season priorities have included what the Birds need to do to improve their defensive pass rush and coverage issues in the secondary. Defensive end, cornerback, re-signing Jason Snelling, and retaining the free agent offensive linemen have been the main decisions that fans have discussed. One not included in that list, and potentially as important as any, is what the Falcons front office plan to do at one outside linebacker spot. Curtis Lofton is the leader of the defense in the middle and Sean Weatherspoon is locked in at one of the spots (best suited for weakside OLB, but that’s for another day).

The big question is what the Falcons plan to do at the other spot. Do they finally re-sign Stephen Nicholas and pay him starter money, even though he hasn’t been able to outright win a spot since he’s been in red and black? Do they really trust Mike Peterson as a frontline starter for 16+ games at the ripe age of 35? Is it really conceivable for Akeem Dent to make any impact as a rookie when many believe he was reached for in the 3rd round by Thomas Dimitroff? Can Spencer Adkins and Robert James actually make the jump to starter after never getting a defensive snap in their careers? Is looking into a very shallow OLB free agent pool an answer? It’s a pretty big deal that isn’t as high on the priority list as it should be. The options:

Re-sign Stephen Nicholas

Yes, Nicholas Has Shown Starter Potential

He may not be Terrell Suggs, but Stephen Nicholas has shown good progress and the capability of being the strongside linebacker. At minimum, Nicholas can be a bridge to the future, and a best case scenario will give the Falcons their most athletic LB corps in many years. He has been the most consistent starter for the Birds at OLB in the Smith/Dimitroff era where he’s started 24 games over the last two years and played in all but 3 since he’s been a Falcon.

Nicholas had 75+ tackles the last two years and registered more sacks in one year (3) by any linebacker in a long, long time. He may still have some coverage issues, but he has improved and would allow Weatherspoon to move to his natural position of Weakside Linebacker while he plays on the Strongside. Assuming Nicholas doesn’t ask for the moon, this one is a no-brainer. He’s shown he can start, tackle well, and rush the passer. With much bigger issues at defensive end and cornerback, do the Birds really need another hole on defense?

No, Let Him Walk

Many thought Nicholas coming back would be a non-issue since he’s had decent results as a starter and the fact that Coach Mike Smith was so supportive of him during his issue with his young son. Then he raved about Detroit’s defense, accidentally or not, and how much he’d like to play with Ndamukong Suh completely out of the blue. That has led many to think that Nicholas will be looking for a big payday. Some can understand why the Falcons are hesitant to pay big for #54. He continues to have major coverage issues and has not been able to claim a full-time starting position since being a Falcon (Weatherspoon and Peterson were named initial starters last year). The Falcons didn’t place any tender on him for a reason. He is not a long-term answer in the front office’s eyes. Let him go start somewhere else.

Combination of Peterson, Dent, Adkins, and/or James

Yes, Fresh Legs and Athleticism Abound

Is Dent an Answer? (J.Crawford/AJC)

The Falcons front office don’t seem to worried about the future at OLB and that may be for good reason. Mike Peterson may be 35, but he proved to be invaluable in a very young defense that has yet to get a vocal leader next in line and Peterson brings a toughness and tenacity that the youngsters need to learn. Peterson could get the starting role, but in an attempt to keep him fresh they could begin their bridge to the future by seeing what they have in rookie Akeem Dent, Spencer Adkins, and Robert James. Dent is a rookie, but even many in the media believe that Dent may be the future at strongside linebacker. A product of poor coaching and transition, Dent could be another in a long line of underdeveloped gems from the UGA program the last few years. He couldn’t learn from anyone better than Peterson.

The coaches may elect to finally see if Adkins and/or James can finally make the jump to starter status after being groomed for 3 years (Adkins) and 4 years (James) in the program. Both have immense athleticism and Coach Smith has been quoted as saying that Adkins and James will get every chance to claim a starting spot. Peterson will get the nod and a trial by fire could decide who will be our next OLB of the future between Dent, Adkins, or James.

No, Too Unproven and Unknown

Even though Mike Peterson has been invaluable, his days as a permanent starting outside linebacker have simply come to an end. He could still play a great role as mentor, leader, and backup on this Falcons team. Many believe Akeem Dent was a reach on draft day as it was and the history of lower drafted LB’s shows not to expect much of anything. He may have a role someday, but anything other than special teams is asking way too much as a rookie.

Adkins and James haven’t been able to work their way onto the defense for any meaningful snaps in their careers and have been relegated to special team mercenaries. In James case, he hasn’t even been able to keep a consistent spot on the 53 man roster. Even though Coach Smith talks about giving them opportunities to win a spot, if either were a long-term answer we would’ve heard something from them by now. Re-sign Nicholas or hit the free agent market.

Make a Free Agent Strike

Yes, Take a Chance in Free Agency

Granted, the free agent pool is thin, but if the Falcons get a good fit, it could help alleviate a lot worries and could add some much needed athleticism into the OLB corps. Who knows exactly what the collective bargaining agreement will look like (assuming one ever gets done), but there may be a few guys worth taking a look at:

**Some may have re-upped with their teams or won’t be free agents at all**

David Harris – Age: 27 – New York Jets

He is more suited to the 3-4, but Harris has shown he can get after the passer racking up 14.5 sacks in his career, which makes about quadruple the amount the Falcons linebackers have gotten in almost a decade COMBINED! Is a little big at 250, but Sean Weatherspoon is 6’1, 241, so it’s not that far-fetched.

James Anderson – Age: 27 – Carolina Panthers

A dream scenario, but you never know with the dysfunction junction they have going on in Charlotte. One of their best players and had a Pro Bowl worthy year with 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF, and 1 interception. Would be an amazing answer at strongside linebacker and would set the linebacker corps as one of the best in the NFL for at least 5-6 years. Carolina won’t let one of their best players go, but if they do, the Falcons would be crazy to pass him up.

Rocky McIntosh – Age: 28 – Washington Redskins

It’s arguable how much of an upgrade McIntosh would be over Nicholas in terms of rushing the passer, but got less than 80+ sacks only once in his career and that was as a rookie. Racked up 94 tackles in 2009 and 110 in 2010. Is obviously very athletic notching 7 career sacks and an excellent 17 passes defensed. May be more of an inside linebacker, but could definitely be an answer if he he’s a scheme fit.

Thomas Davis – Age: 28 – Carolina Panthers

Anderson’s teammate could be a target for the Falcons. The former Georgia high school stud and one of UGA’s best safeties in history could be low risk and high reward. Davis was on track to being one of the NFL’s best OLB’s when two knee injuries has put his career in doubt. He may not offer much in terms of definite contribution, but if he were able to rekindle his magic, than look out with him pairing with Spoon and Lofton. Also, guess who was his defensive coordinator in college? Yep, one Mr. Brian Van Gorder.

Many others available, but not many would be much of an upgrade.

No, Would Be a Waste of Money

The OLB market for free agents is one of the weakest positions of any in this year’s class. Why do you think that Stephen Nicholas is looking to cash in when his stats are mediocre? Outside of a few (Anderson, Harris), none of the free agents add anything more than re-signing Stephen Nicholas would. Also, Smith and Dimitroff pride themselves on grooming their own players and limiting free agency signings. Getting a bona fide defensive end and a nickel back are much higher on the priority list.

Your Turn

  1. Simple: What should the Falcons do at OLB
  2. Should the Birds re-up Nicholas or let’em walk
  3. Would Nicholas/Lofton/Weatherspoon be a dynamic or trio at LB
  4. Is there a reason that Nicholas has been unable to grab a permanent OLB spot
  5. Can a starter be found in Akeem Dent, Spencer Adkins, or Robert James
  6. Does Peterson have one more year left, at least in a rotation
  7. Should Peterson only be viewed as a backup
  8. Can Akeem Dent make any impact on defense
  9. Can Adkins or James finally make the “starter jump?
  10. What about signing an OLB free agent
  11. Would Harris, Anderson, McIntosh or Davis be worth it
  12. Any free agent OLB we’re overlooking?

120 comments Add your comment

Unca' Bob

July 8th, 2011
3:32 pm

Enter your comments here

The Real Falcon

July 8th, 2011
3:56 pm

Re-sign the guy. LB by commitee is not the way.


July 8th, 2011
3:59 pm

Nicholas has recently shown an indication that he wants to stay a Falcon. I think he has realized that the comments about Suh, etc. weren’t taken too well by the Falcon brass. I say sign him if possible.


July 8th, 2011
4:10 pm

Simple: What should the Falcons do at OLB.
Re-sign Nicholas because with a shortened offseason the impact of FA will be lessened since they are getting up to speed. Despite comments about Suh (and who can blame him), Nicholas has said he would like to stay here.

Should the Birds re-up Nicholas or let’em walk?

Would Nicholas/Lofton/Weatherspoon be a dynamic or trio at LB?
Honestly, the real key is Weatherspoon. Shame we lost an offseason because he really could have used it. On paper it sounds good.

Is there a reason that Nicholas has been unable to grab a permanent OLB spot?
Yes. Peterson is still a good player (former All-Pro) but wears down in the season. Spoon being the draft pick over Pouncey and Graham kinda set Nick back a year but he ended up playing very well and got more starts due to injury.

Can a starter be found in Akeem Dent, Spencer Adkins, or Robert James?
Sure. There has to be a reason they resigned James because I don’t see bringing him back if he was a permanent backup. Adkins is on a similar path to Nicholas. Dent is a hard worker. We got help at CB to mask some deficiencies especially if Spoon progresses.

Does Peterson have one more year left, at least in a rotation?
Yup, especially with a shortened offseason. I think more FA stay home than normal since they have increased value to their current team/scheme.

Should Peterson only be viewed as a backup?
Maybe for the second half of the season.

Can Akeem Dent make any impact on defense?
You never know.

Can Adkins or James finally make the “starter jump?
See above.

What about signing an OLB free agent?
I would love to but I have questions about the crop. Akeem Ayers was probably our best chance to address this spot.

Would Harris, Anderson, McIntosh or Davis be worth it?
The Carolina boys are real intriguing. Makes you think they can’t keep both.

Any free agent OLB we’re overlooking?
Manny Lawson. Possibly a flyer on Ernie Sims.


July 8th, 2011
4:38 pm

bear woods looked good in the pre season last year. he may fight and win a roster spot, and might actually contribute. if we loose nicholas we’ll be all right as long as we re-sign peterson. lets see what we have in the pre season and what rookie free agents we sign. if things are shaky the front office has made moves in the past to correct mistakes in the past (foxworth, brian williams)


July 8th, 2011
5:14 pm

Co-sign with uga_b. Well said man.

Paddy O

July 8th, 2011
6:42 pm

I’m not that familar with our LB problems relative to league expectations. We signed Adkins & James for a purpose, but I see us resigning Nichols. No way you can depend on Dent already – next year, yeah, at least some. I though Nichols played pretty well. As stated, Spoon is the key guy, and actually, Lofton needs to show further development (avoid getting trapped by premature overcomitment – and don’t get married, either!).

Paddy O

July 8th, 2011
6:42 pm

OK, now that SW has checked in, where is BA?


July 8th, 2011
6:52 pm

Cage Family…

The weekend is here and the CBA is getting closer and closer to being a reality. Yes!!

Great topic, D3. I am going to have to think of how I want to break it down but I will definately be in favor of retaining Stephen Nicholas. Back in a few to detail my thoughts on the matter.

Unca' Bob

July 8th, 2011
7:15 pm

Re-sign Stephen Nicholas. I don’t know the context from which his statement about Suh was taken, but I can’t blame him for tootin’ Suh’s horn. Suh is a player that only comes around on a generational basis. Perhaps SN54 simply got caught up in the moment and made a rash statement. I feel we should resign him and let his football do the talking. He seems to me to be a hard working young man and I for one, would love to see him remain a Falcon


July 8th, 2011
7:52 pm

I think in the current environment, you have to resign him. I’d try for a short-term deal, but that may not be possible. We could use an upgrade, but we didn’t address in the draft and I don’t think FA is the way to go this year. If Dent is the answer, and that works, I will forever say that TD is a pure genius. Grabbing a MLB that could have lasted till the 5th or later in the 3rd and then playing him at OLB as a STAQRTER in his first year?!?!?!?!? Come on man!


July 8th, 2011
8:37 pm

I have to agree, resign Nicholas. Its obvious that Adkins and Spencer haven’t won the confidence of the coaching staff. As far Dent, without the benefit of mini camp or OTAs or even looking at playbook does not have much chance of playing time this season.

Unca' Bob

July 8th, 2011
8:45 pm


Havin’ a bad day?


July 9th, 2011
3:07 am

Great stuff D3, you really hit the nail on the head with this one as far as our concerns about the LB position. Without a doubt you re-sign Nicholas as long as the numbers add up. Where do you draw the line on what you are willing to pay when some team like Detroit makes him a big offer? Counting on players that haven’t been good enough to even get on the field is fool’s gold, so what do you do if Nicholas’ demand is just too high? I’d say break the bank and sign a certain CB that will be available and encompasses everything the Falcons look for in a player and more.


July 9th, 2011
9:25 am

“Where do you draw the line on what you are willing to pay when some team like Detroit makes him a big offer? ”

Ed, we call that getting Koncacked… tends to happen with teams from Detroit…

just me

July 9th, 2011
1:14 pm

Resign him if he wants to be in ATL, if not let him go to a place where he will be happy. I cannot see getting into a bidding war with Det or any other NFL team. Make him a reasonable offer and let him choose where he wants to be.

If he walks then that just leaves the door open for someone to step-up.

It would be a bit hard to bring someone in to learn the system in such a short period of time once a GREEDY bargaining agreement is signed.

I know consistancy isn’t always great when a commitee is used, but we have Peterson to mentor some of the younger guys. We can let him start, but reduce his number of snaps to keep him fresh throught the season. This would let the younger guys get some P/T and real game experience.

I like Nic and feel that he can be a great contributer. He may even possibly be on the verge of a Pro Bowl year. Off the field issues can be a great distraction. I know how hard it is on a player who is concerned about children with health problems. Just look at the Eagles kicker this past year.


July 9th, 2011
4:14 pm

Great Saturday Cage Fam! — Hope all of you and your family are doing well on this summer weekend. Appears that the Player’s Union have lost all the initial confidence they gained due to the owners most recent court victory. Maybe we’re getting close, but until I see Training Camp start up, I’ll believe it when I see it.

RE: OLB Situation — I’ve said many times before that I think that, while it may not be the best possible scenario overall, it’s the best possible solution given the circumstances right now. I still think that a Nicholas/Lofton/Spoon trio at LB would give us our most athletic LB corps in quite some time.

As many of you all brought up back on the other post, we’re always going to have the chicken vs. egg argument with this defense. Are they insanely conservative because of their players limits and youth (ie….Nicholas coverage issues) or are Smitty and BVG more of culprits for not being more aggressive and putting their players in chances to succeed? I do know this: we need a ton more speed and aggressiveness from the LB corps. Our sack totals from our LB’s have been pathetic, bordering on criminal. Not asking for the new version of the Grits Blitz (well, I would actually love that), but mustering a whopping 4 or less sacks per year. Unacceptable.

That leads me into the fact why we should keep Nicholas. He collared more sacks in one year (3) than any LB in recent memory. He may not be Terrell Suggs or Brian Orakpo, but he gives us more of a threat in rushing the passer than any of our other LB’s, at least until Spoon proves it. He has learned strongside and would allow Spoon to play his natural position of weakside linebacker. Signing him to a 3 year deal would be perfect for both, assuming he doesn’t ask for the moon.


July 9th, 2011
4:22 pm

Let’s be honest, Nicholas is in the position of power on this one (even though the lockout has hurt it somewhat). First, the OLB free agent class is insanely weak. So he could get a bigger payday than he deserves for that reason alone. A team like Detroit would probably overpay to get someone who is young and has proven that he can play and start.

Second, he kind of has the Falcons in a bind. They haven’t been able to anyone for a takeover and have had hardly any consistency at the OLB spot since Dimitroff/Smith Era began. Lofton has been a rock, but outside of that, not one OLB has started on a consistent basis. All these guys have started at one time or another at OLB under Smith/Dimitroff:

Coy Wire
Stephen Nicholas
Michael Boley
Sean Weatherspoon
Mike Peterson
Keith Brooking

Absolutely no consistency at all and obviously no ability to develop anyone to take over long-term. Unless Adkins or James make an enormous leap, than Nicholas is the safest bet. He may not be an all-star, but he sure is better than any of the alternatives. Sorry, but as much as I love M-Pete, he’s nothing more than a backup now.


July 9th, 2011
4:48 pm

D3 – I think the biggest factor is there isn’t really a better option right now. Unless Nicholas gets insanely expensive, you have to keep him. If it goes high, then you have to let him go. We debated Asoumgha already, but I’d rather let Nicholas walk and grab Asoumgha. We play nickel most of the time and you only need 2 LBs. What about dropping a DE to LB? Stretching, but could JA98 play SLB???

Finally, I know I have beaten the hell out of this drum, but our D predicament all comes from our DTs. Our philosophy has been to draft and sign smaller, quicker DTs. In my opinion, this is where we have taken HUGE risk. If the DTs push the middle of the pocket and take up multiple blockers, the entire D benefits. The DEs get one on one and can get to the QB easier. The middle is also collapsed forcing the DE to the outside where the DEs are. The QB has to rush reads and throws making the CBs and S jobs easier. Finally, the LBs seldom have to worry about fighting off OL to get to RBs. They scrape TEs and FBs. Successful DTs are the engine that runs the total D.

Now, I’ve called for big, Grady-sized mountains. We have gone the Babs route with Jerry and Peters. These guys are all good, but not disruptive enough to help cover weaknesses in other areas. Hence, glaring needs at DE, OLB, and CB. Since we’ve already sunk our money into these DTs, we’re stuck with them. Now we have to spend some money (possibly more than necessary) on CBs (Asoumgha), DEs (Edwards), and/or LBs (Nicholas).

just me

July 9th, 2011
10:04 pm

Coop – I am still hoping we sign “The Vanilla Gorilla” when we can sign UDFAs! I agree with 100% about the DT issue. I would love to see a big DT lined up beside our smaller quick DTs.

D3 – Suggs and Orakpo both play in a 3-4 def that is designed for LBs to make tackles and get sacks. We use a 4-3 that is designed for DEs to make sacks. I know you are comparing LBs, but it’s kinda like saying apples and oranges are fruits so they should taste the same. I do agree that our LB corps should combine for more than 5 sacks a year. But if you rarely biltz a LB how can you expect them to tally sacks.

just me

July 9th, 2011
10:08 pm

Coop – I don’t like the idea of dropping a DE to play LB, I would rather bring in an extra safety to cover the SLB spot. You can play a 4-2-5 cover 1 or 2 on passing downs that have a higher possibility of being a run play.


July 9th, 2011
10:35 pm

Nicolas has played strong and weakside linebacker for the Birds; remember Weatherspoon’s injuries. He should be signed long-term because the team is making a championship push and we need stability on defense. The secondary is slightly younger than the LBs and the defensive line is a carousel. Let’s work on shipping out the D-linemen who are not making an impact on the field but in the income bracket (JA98, Peria Jerry). Even consider Babineaux since he has a big contract. He could bring us a O-lineman in return.


July 10th, 2011
1:52 am

I like the idea of addition by subtraction.What other time do you have the opportunity to raid from inside your conference.The ability to steal 2 big players from Carolinas defense.Would definitely weaken them and strengthen us.

just me

July 10th, 2011
1:53 am

a quick thought…think of all the free time that coaches and front office personel have had this year compared to most years. So what do they do? The have extra time to evaluate current players and positions, possible free agents, scheme issues, etc. When the time comes I expect TD to go after the players that they really want and let the others fall by they wayside. I expect to see some positive tweeks in the O and the D. And I even look for some UDFAs to be signed that will see some game time. Ladies and Gents expect the unexpected!

Here’s looking forward to a great year!!!


July 10th, 2011
2:12 am

Speaking of UDFA and LB’s.I’m still hoping we can bring in Mark Herzlich


July 10th, 2011
12:15 pm

Good Sunday afternoon Cage family…

Stephen Nicholas. Long term Falcon? The answer is a rock solid and quick, HELL YEAH!!

He is young and had been a clog on the field when he plays. He makes tackles, has the versatility to play both the WLB and SLB positions. Some would say that there have been lapses in his game but we know now that behind the scenes, the young man and his young family were dealing with some very serious issues.

He has great range and very good speed. Like D3, I love the combination that he, Weatherspoon, and Lofton would give the Falcon LB corps long term. It’s a damned shame that the overall talent of the LB corps is not being utilized to the fullest extent possible. Ooops…there I go again!!

Back to Nicholas. As my favorite Gunny stated, who in the hell would not speak up and say that they would not love to play with Suh. Look at the chaos the man creates and the attentions. The league loves Ray Lewis but Ray Lewis is nothing, I mean diminished BIG TIME, if he did not have Ngata ahead of him. So Nicholas’ comments have merit and are true. So we can let that go. All NFL players would love to play beside one of the great one OR a player that helps them to raise their game.

Part two…..


July 10th, 2011
12:20 pm

Peterson is a leader in the locker room. He still has something to offer. But if you expect him to be a force at either WLB or SLB, then you are either living a dream or smoking some serious Marion Berry stock. Wire, James, Adkins…..special teamers and situational players at best it would appear. We have seen nothing that would “leave the light on” for us to focus our attention on for them.

Nicholas has been a game changer at times. He has lead the team in tackles in games…He has shown promise as a blitzer. While not the greatest in coverage, I feel better with him out there than I do with Pete or Lofton in coverage. He is active against the run as well. Scheme; damned, I almost did it again.

Any of the free agent LBs that are out there would bring nothing more than Nicholas. Once again, we would have to hear those same pathetic lines…”they need to get up to speed in the system, etc.”. No more. The time is now to make a move.

Part three….


July 10th, 2011
12:24 pm

Several Cage members have made significant note of the fact that the offensive cohesion is more the result of them being together for three/four years and the turbulence on the defensive side. Well, keeping Nicholas in fold would be a KEY step in ensuring that “needed defensive cohesion”.

Anderson of the Kittens would be a fine pickup but Ron Rivera will not let that young lion get away. Thomas Davis would appease UGA fans for sure but with two major blow outs/recaps in three years on his suspension system, I think the Falcons should pass on him…especially given the INCREASE in range and coverage we will need in the LB corps.

Part four…..summary


July 10th, 2011
12:30 pm

Keep Stephen Nicholas in the fold. His upside, his proven tenacity on the field, his special team leadership and tackling, his flexiblity at WLB and SLB. Enuf said.

Ken Strickland

July 10th, 2011
12:34 pm

He should be resigned only if it’s economically feasible. He hasn’t shown enough upside for us to overpay for his services. Last yr I searched the net looking for whatever I could find on the progress and expectations of OLB Spencer Adkins. The concensus was that he’ll likely have a decent career as a backup and special teams ace, but not as a frontline LB.

If Robert James has resolved his personal issues, and us resigning him is a strong indication that he has, then he could turn out to be the answer to our OLB issues. He definitely has the speed and quickness to provide solid pass coverage, and he has a solid reputation as a vicious hitter. ADent just might end up becoming a longteam replacement for MPeterson as a backup and spot starter at OLB and MLB.

I think in the end, SNickolas will be resigned, along with CB BGrimes, OT TClabo, and OG JBlalock. RB JSnelling is in the same situation as RB MTurner when he was LTomlinson’s backup. If a team comes knocking on his door, like the Falcons knocked on Turners door, and offers him a starters position and contract, he’s outta here. Otherwise, he’d resign with the Falcons rather than be a backup for another team.

I think the key to improving our LB and secondary coverage issues is to sign a quality pass rushing DE. Putting quicker and more consistent pressure on QB’s will limit the QB’s reads and time in the pocket, as well as limit the time our DB’s and LB’s will have to maintain tight coverage. Having a solid and consistent pass rush can also change to a large extent the actual pass coverage requirements of our LB’s.

Because we lacked a consistent and effective pass rush we played a lot of zone, which required our LB’s to drop back a lot in coverage. With a consistent and effective pass rush, along with the use of more press coverage from our CB’s, our LB’s could definitely be used differently.

We simply don’t have the LB’s, CB’s, or pass rush to effectively play zone. We do, however, have the CB’s and LB’s to effectively play man to man. And if we are successful in signing a quality DE, we’ll have the pass rush to compliment them.


July 10th, 2011
12:42 pm

Side note…

I could not hold it back anymore..

The Falcons brass needed to be focused on the lack of a cohrent defensive scheme much more than they need to worry about comments from Nicholas about Suh. How about focusing on the return we have seen in high priced picks/investments like Jamaal Anderson and Peria Jerry on that side of the ball.

Anderson is done in ATL (should have been long before Chris Houston, who at least showed up on the stat sheets and made a FEW plays). Jerry…well, I would have never made the pick. I just see him as one of those guys that will never be totally healthy and we never get the value we need.

If we are going to equip ourselves with Tampa 2 style players, why not get someone in here that can run a Tampa 2 style scheme?


July 10th, 2011
12:51 pm

Wow, SW, tell it like it is if you don’t mind. When considering Nicholas, all I ask is if there’s anyone available thats better at this point. That question should get a resounding NO, which leaves us with the premise that SW is trying hard to avoid, coaches put players in the best positions to make plays. Ed Reed is arguably one of the best defensive playmakers in the league, but playing behind the front seven in this horribly ridiculous vanilla scheme probably wouldn’t even place him in the top 15 at his position. Which leads back to OLB for the Falcons, sure Nicholas coverage skills can be questioned but when an offensive coordinator knows, again I say knows, he can get you in a one on one with a Reggie Bush type doesn’t that kind of stir the pot a bit. I mean if there was some sense of diversity in the Falcons defensive scheme maybe an opposing offensive coordinator at least has to think about potential matchups or mismatches he’s trying to create, not against the Falcons, throw creativity out the window. The Falcons want to stop the run on 1st and 2nd down and just hope you don’t pass, on 3rd down they drop everyone into coverage hoping Abe can get there, my bad, occasionally they blitz, buts its generally that guy walking up to the line looking like he’s planning on blitzing in the first place, there are no hidden agendas with the Falcons defense, what you see is what your going to get, kind of hard to judge the talent of an LB on that.


July 10th, 2011
1:08 pm

Coop, we have discussed the DT issue at great length in the past. I can see your point and I support it if the brass will commit. But again, the lack of coherent thought seems to be missing. Is this BVG’s defense or is this Smitty’s outline with BVG as a “caretaker”?

The job CAN be done with smaller, quicker tackles. But there has to be compliments to that. The great Tampa defense of Dungy/Kiffin showed that. The Eagle defenses of the late Jim Johnson showed us that. Hell, we went to a Super Bowl behind a potent rushing attack and a DL line lead by DTs Shane Dronett and Travis Hall.

Again, I am not disagreeing with your premise. What I am saying is that there is an obvious disconnect at the Branch when it comes to defensive scheme.


July 10th, 2011
7:31 pm

The rush is a problem on the D side, it is also a problem on the O side. Matt Ryan needs a little more time than 2 seconds to throw the ball. If that could happen, maybe MM would open up the offence a little more. We have more problems than just the D.


July 10th, 2011
8:39 pm

Lets see, the Falcons have BVG who is the Def. Cord. and then we have Coach Smith who is a former Def. Cord. And now we have M.M. as the Off. Cord. and Bob Bratkowski a former Off. Cord. who is now the new QB coach.


July 10th, 2011
8:43 pm

Connected or Disconnected?

Big Ray

July 10th, 2011
11:06 pm

Yeah, re-up him if the price is something that can be lived with. But I don’t see guys like Dent in here as window dressing. We may have more in Dent than we think…

As for the defense, I agree with some others here – there is an intrinsic problem. Part of it IS personnel. Jerry wasn’t a good pick due to the health risk issue. Peters helps bridge the gap, but is he a good fit with Babineaux? Can we move forward with this?

All we need out of Weatherspoon is to stay healthy. I believe he’s fine other than that.

I worry about our D-Line, but there are ways to get around some of our issues.


July 10th, 2011
11:07 pm

Keep Nicholas at this point….he’s better than Petersons who is ready for a retirement home……our LB corp is underwhelming at best….but we do have Julio Jones to make up for that…


July 11th, 2011
4:18 am

Find someone to bridge the gap and hopefully do what it takes to draft Travis Lewis LB out of Oklahoma in 2012

Paddy O

July 11th, 2011
9:44 am

falcon 21 – last year, we finally actively kept a RB & Svitek as an extra blocker, and THAT gave Ryan enough time to fire off a quick pass to Roddy. We did NOT do that in the Pitt game, and that was one reason why Ryan had so little time. Overall, our O line, with the extras, did a decent job. But, against slick blitz schemers – Eagles, Pitt, Ravens, GB – we are not agile enough to pick up, and keep Ryan upright & happy.

Ken Strickland

July 11th, 2011
11:12 am

While our DEF issues must be addressed, many seem to forget about our OFF issues. Three members of our starting OL are UFA’s, along with our primary backup RB. And as we all should know, without a solid OL everything else is all but a waste.

Last yr we managed to win 13gms without

1-a consistent pass rush,
2-a pass DEF,
3-a pass rushing FA DE like REdwards or CJohnson.

How many of you think we could have done as well without OT TClabo, or OG’s JBlalock or HDahl? Which scenario do you think is more feasible:
1-DE KBiermann stepping up and having a breakout season and solidifying our pass rushing issues, or
2-losing Probowl OT TClabo to FA and his backup ends up having a breakout season and makes the Probowl.

Losing 2 FA OLinemen will likely wreak the OL continuity that’s been developed under TD and Smitty’s tenue. Having to replace 2 OLinemen with backups will also have an enormous impact on our OL depth. Having to replace 2 OLinemen, with one being of Probowl caliber, isn’t the way to get better and become a serious Superbowl contender.

Ken Strickland

July 11th, 2011
11:31 am

PADDYO-I don’t think our biggest problem was dealing with blitz packages, because Ryan didn’t have a lot of sacks. Our biggest problem was dealing effectively with coverages, using a limited passing OFF system, along with QB MRyan’s bad habit of virtually ignoring all other receiving options other than WR RWhite and TE TGonzalez.

A lot of his INT’s were the result of him trying to force passes to these 2 receivers rather than going to his 3rd option, or throwing the ball away. It woul certainly help if OC MMularkey wised up and started using his RB’s more as receiving options rather than blockers. The more receiving options you give you QB the more effective he will be.

We only have to look at the New Orlean AINTS prolific passing OFF to see how effective that approach can be. Their OFF philosophy is to utilize their RB’s as weapons, to assist their QB, rather than as blockers, to protect him.

Paddy O

July 11th, 2011
11:58 am

ken – relatively, as usual, I agree with you. I just remember the 2nd GB game we had problems adapting to their adjustments. Our scheme on O was just as vanilla as our D, but MR2 & Roddy did a great job of 3rd down conversions. We really got exceptionally lucky with 13 wins, as stated, we should have lost 2 others, plus 3 others I can think of were way too close (that would make us 500). Which is why I would be relatively happy with 11 wins this year – no way we repeat the level of luck we got in 2010. I also wholeheartedly agree with using our RB as a receiver – but, we saw it multiple times, Turner is NOT a good receiver – Snelling & Ovie are. Ryan was pressing in the 2nd GB game, which resulted in the interception TD return – if that doesn’t happen, we would have had a competitive game (assumes our D does hold them some). BUT, I’d say we had to keep the RB’s in – or Ryan is on his butt a whole lot more – I see using the RB’s as emergency blockers, then releasing if possible for a screen pass – where is he anyway?

Paddy O

July 11th, 2011
11:59 am

I also agree that keeping the O line together is crucial, unless as some others here say, the guys on the wings are ready to take over – but, we never see them play, so who knows.

Ken Strickland

July 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

PADDYO-Although I haven’t seen much of our backup OLinemen in action either, I have a strong feeling that OG MJohnson will quickly become an upgrade over whoever he replaces, most likely HDahl. There’s very little reason for us to resign both FA OG’s, and JBlalock is definitely a better run blocker than Dahl.

I’m inclined to believe he’s a better pass blocker as well since he’s on the L-side, which is where teams with R-handed QB put their best pass blockers. I believe resigning TClabo, replacing HDahl with MJohnson, resigning Blalock and moving him to the R-side, will actually be an overall upgrade to our OL.


July 11th, 2011
3:48 pm

Just found this on cbssports on FA predictions;

Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson to the Falcons: The Falcons thought left end Kroy Biermann was one of their rising stars heading into 2010. But he was a disappointment as a pass rusher. He is still an effort player, but they need more from their pass rush. That showed up in the loss to the Packers. And John Abraham is getting up in the years. Johnson had 11 1/2 sacks last season and he is only 24 years old. He is also from Georgia and played his college ball there for the Georgia Bulldogs. Signing Johnson would also help weaken a division opponent.


July 11th, 2011
4:03 pm

Found this on foxsports regarding another talke about FA;

Do not discount savvy Thomas Dimitroff and the Atlanta Falcons. A blanket like Asomugha changes everything for Mike Smith’s defense on the back end. Remember, Atlanta eschewed defense in the draft to move up for Julio Jones. And the lasting memory of the Falcons’ great season was Aaron Rodgers playing pitch and catch in the Dome as if Atlanta wasn’t on the field. This could be a championship mo


July 11th, 2011
4:15 pm

Paddy O and Ken points as always. I know I’m dreaming but wouldn’t be nice to see MR2 behind a rock solid O-line just to see how good he could be.


July 11th, 2011
4:15 pm

Good points!!!


July 11th, 2011
4:23 pm

JB, I would be happy with 1 out of 2. Johnson being first choice.