Are Drastic Changes Needed on Atlanta Falcons Defense?

The Defensive Process has Hit a Wall

Only Part of the Issue on D (AJC)

***Editor’s Note — this is part 1 of a two part look at the defensive side of the ball***

To be nice, the Atlanta Falcons defense has not lived up to expectations in a long time. To be blunt, the Falcons defense has been downright atrocious pretty much for the entirety of the Smith and Dimitroff regime. Faults lie vast and wide in a defense that doesn’t look much different from the one in 2008. Some has been coaching. Some has been drafting. Other parts has been scheme, while still other parts has been development. But all involved are to blame. 2010 saw a defense that finished top 5 in points allowed in the NFL, only to completely collapse vs. Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers in the second half.

The Cage is Ready for the Off-Season

2012 saw the Falcons defense do pretty good overall against the pass and do a very good job at creating turnovers, but were horrid vs. the run and even worse against tight ends in the playoffs. After nearly blowing one lead up 27-7 vs. Seattle, the Falcons did fall apart against the Niners and lose after being up 17-0 and later 24-14. It appeared as though once the defense or scheme was figured out, that was it, and the onslaught couldn’t be stopped. The playoffs were just the icing on the cake on the downright pitiful nature of the Falcons defense the last four years. It’s hard to argue against completely imploding most of this defense in some form or fashion. Whether it be personnel, scheme, development, drafting, or all of the above.

No Lack of Resources

The Falcons under Thomas Dimtiroff have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball with little to no avail. 1st round draft picks have included DT Peria Jerry and LB Sean Weatherspoon. William Moore was drafted in the second round, along with recently departed Curtis Lofton. They have used plenty of lower round picks on defensive players as well, including Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Chris Owens, Dominique Franks, Vance Walker, Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi, Travian Robertson, Charles Mitchell, Akeem Dent, and Robert James, all of which either start or are on the team as depth. They drafted a handful of other defensive players that are no longer with the team including Spencer Adkins, William Middleton, Wilrey Fontenot among a handful of others. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan may be the most notable draft picks, but plenty have been used for defense as well.

The Sidbury Mystery (AJC)

Not only has TD & Co. used a bunch of picks on defensive players, they’ve also spent in free agency or acquired players via trade as well. The most obvious is Dunta Robinson who got an eye-poppingly enormous contract in 2009. They signed Mike Peterson to a decent contract. They re-upped Biermann, Stephen Nicholas, Jonathan Babineaux, and John Abraham. They signed Ray Edwards to help the pass rush and that will go easily go down as Dimitroff’s biggest free agent bust. He also traded for All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel. So where has this defense gone so wrong? It depends how long you have to listen. In all seriousness, this post is meant to look at the past errors and look to the future.

A Few Really Bad Picks

The most obvious one that comes to mind is one DT Peria Jerry, easily Dimitroff’s worst pick. He seemingly reached for a player that fell just because the Falcons had a need at DT. Jerry was slotted to go high in the first round and he started to sink fast, likely due to his major injury history. He got hurt in the first game played and just has never gotten back his collegiate form. Clay Matthews was picked one spot later. It still smarts to have to type those words.

Posing for a Picture (AJC)

Even worse of a decision was the idea to draft Jamaal Anderson out of Arkansas with the #8 overall pick. One Patrick Willis was picked just a few spots later. Not only did Rich McKay miss on all-world LB Willis, but there were 9 more players selected in the first round that went on to become a Pro Bowler (Darelle Revis, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Griffin, Joe Staley, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Meriweather, Jon Beason, Anthony Spencer, and Ben Grubbs). There’s a saying that when you miss very poorly on a 1st round draft pick (especially an early one) that it will set your franchise back almost 5 years. How long has this defense been struggling again?

Poor Development

This was mentioned in a previous post about the wide indictment on the lack of pass rush, seemingly forever. The Falcons have drafted plenty of “talented projects” that, if developed correctly, could conceivably become a starter or at the very least contribute on a regular basis. There’s many examples to choose from over the last five years, but a few stick out: Lawrence Sidbury and Chris Owens.

Sidbury was a beast at the combine and in college with his amazing pass-rushing skills. He was one of the fastest defensive ends to come out in the draft that year and just seemed to have a knack for getting after the quarterback. He came on late in 2009 and notched a sack, fumble, and a defensive touchdown vs. Buffalo. The future was bright. The next year either saw him get injured or captured by a gang of soccer hooligans, because he only made appearances in 6 games. Many just scratched him up as a good talent that couldn’t convert to the NFL.

Then the 2011 season came. It’s unsure of exactly how many limited snaps he got, but it was enough to set career highs in tackles (9) and sacks (4). Fans expecting a huge breakout with the addition of Mike Nolan and his use of edge rushers were in for extreme disappointment and bewilderment. He was only active for 10 games and notched a whopping 1 tackle on the season. When Ray Edwards was cut out, Sidbury was leapfrogged by both Cliff Matthews and rookie Jonathan Massaquoi. It’s one of the most frustrating mysteries ever involving the Atlanta Falcons. Sidbury is a free agent and there’s fear that he will go on to another team and blow up.

Nolan Needs Some Weapons (AJC)

Another example is Chris Owens. The former San Jose State cornerback shocked almost all Falcons fans when he was drafted in the 3rd round and everyone went “who?” Owens wasn’t the most highly rated, but he came on to start at the end of the year for the Atlanta Falcons, needing three straight victories to rid themselves of the “never-winning-back-to-back” curse, two of which were on the road. Owens held his own and did very well. Thomas Dimitroff goes out and gets Dunta Robinson in free agency and it seems Owens has regressed ever since, (even though he seemed to do much, much better in Mike Nolan’s scheme). It’s one thing for fans to speculate on potential that’s never actualized, but it’s quite another to see it with their own eyes either during the preseason or regular season, only either to regress or never be heard from again. Along with being one of the most frustrating things to fans, it’s also hindered production in not having younger prospects ready to take over for aging or unproductive veterans.

Time for a Move to the 3-4

Some believe that the Falcons don’t have the personnel to convert to a 3-4 and would need a ton of infusion to make it work, from a big-bodied DT to 5-techniques DEs, and even inside linebackers. The counter argument is, can the Falcons afford to NOT convert to the 3-4? The Falcons have a ton of players that just don’t seem to fit in Smith’s preferred 4-3 alignment. Kroy Biermann, Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi, and several others seem more likely to flourish as outside linebackers in a 3-4, rather than true defensive ends in a 4-3. Stephen Nicholas looked pretty bad in his role as a 4-3 OLB trying to cover Vernon Davis and Zach Miller. Akeem Dent played in a 3-4 in college under Todd Grantham. Nolan even moved Jonathan Babineaux to defensive end to try and assist to stop the run.

Owens Better Under Nolan (AJC)

Not only does Nolan prefer the 3-4, but there’s also an argument that it’s much more conducive to find players that are suitable for the 3-4, as opposed to true defensive ends in the 4-3. In fact, almost all the best defenses in the NFL run the 3-4. The Falcons have obviously shown they can not develop their own effective defensive ends in the 4-3 (see Jamaal Anderson) or even pick them out in free agency (see Ray Edwards). And that leads into the next argument.

Regardless of schemes, personnel, or players, the best reason to move to a 3-4 is that the 4-3 under Mike Smith is just not working. The 4-3 worked for Smith in Jacksonville, but it helped to have two behemoths at defensive tackle in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. For whatever reason, the Falcons front office have seemed almost averse to getting bigger defensive tackles, which has resulted in the no pass rush and recently weak vs. the run. Above all, five years of draft picks, free agents, and even a change in coordinators has resulted in a defense that just isn’t good and nowhere near dominant. In fact, this defense looks indistingiushable from the 2008 defense that both Smith and Dimitroff vowed to fix. That’s the most damning statement of all.

Pitiful Punt Returner

Bird Cage Rebuilder’s Turn

1) Quick Pick 6 – what should be the Falcons plan to get this defense right?

2) What’s been the biggest problem with this defense for the past 5 years?

3) Should the Falcons look at any defensive free agents?

4) What should the Falcons focus on in the draft?

5) What positions need a major overhaul?

6) What positions need minor adjustments?

7) Biggest issue: bad picks, poor development, scheme, or coaching?

8.) Should Falcons move to the 3-4?

9) WILL the Falcons move to the 3-4?

10) Is TD or Mike Smith more indicted on the defensive issues?

11) Can the defense be fixed quickly or is it a long road?

226 comments Add your comment

JB Falcon

February 10th, 2013
9:30 pm

Read the headline only and the answer is NO.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
9:31 pm

Ohhhhh, this is going to be good.

Buckle up, Cage family. Defenders of CFA Smith are not going to like what the TeePee has to say.

JB Falcon

February 10th, 2013
9:41 pm

Drastic is the key word.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
9:51 pm

What’s been the biggest problem with this defense for the past 5 years?

Simple. This defensive unit has lacked a vision and lacked leadership. CFA Mike Smith and his previous boss, Jack Del Rio got considerable credit for their defensive efforts in Jacksonville. What goes undocumented to most is that the core of that defense was cosntructed/acquired when Tom Coughlin was the head coach in Jacksonville. Players such as Marcus Stroud, John Henderson, Mike Peterson, Akin Ayodele, Paul Spicer, and Rashean Morris were drafted or signed as FA while Coughlin was in the driver’s seat. The core was in place; when it came to time to keep it in tact and take it to the next level, CFA Smith was gone and Del Rio, well, we know what happened there.

Mistake one for CFA Smith was to make a linebacker coach with TWO years of NFL experience his defensive coordinator shortly after his hiring in ATL. In both places, he was basically a caretaker as there were skilled, solid LBs in place. Jax had Peterson, Darryl Smith, and Ayodele while ATL had Brooking, Boley, and Demarrio Williams. All were accomplished talents with Pro Bowls or Pro Bowl alternate status on their resumes.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
9:53 pm

Going to work on this one carefully. Stay tuned.

JBF, will grant you drastic….I favor significant.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
9:59 pm

Can the defense be fixed quickly or is it a long road?

Simply put, the TeePee says no. Why? The amount of money tied up in aging, often injured, and inconsistent players will restrict our ability to go out and be effective in free agency.

The inability to show any element of player development also raised some doubt on the capacity of the staff to create a viable, consistently performing defense. As I have noted many times, this team has THREE defensive coordinators on the staff as well as a veteran defensive line coach. And each aspect of the defense seems to be in a state of regression. Depth is an issue as is quality and constant performance. Against the rush, they are anemic at best. Against the pass, they are pathetic too often.

No, there is no band aid fix to this. There is no scheme; just a mix of zones and shifts that will, from time to time, produce an exciting play. But this defense does not frighten anyone nor does it serve as a threat to challenge an OC or coaching staff that understands innovation.

D3

February 10th, 2013
10:07 pm

JB — Will have to respectfully disagree on this one. Regarding the secondary, I do agree that minimal changes are needed. The front 7, however, is a whole different ballgame. We’re going to have clear major space just to do anything this off-season, even re-signing our own guys. I think Abe and Babs may both be gone. The biggest supporting argument on major changes needed is that is just has not worked the way they’ve been doing things the past 5 years. Secondary is in good hands for now. Two older vets with DRob and Asante. Two young guys with McClain and Owens and a chance to add more. The front 7? Major overhaul needed.

SW — So, tell me about Brandon Jenkins. I had some queries, but I thought I’d come to the best FSU source. Seemed to have huge production as a sophomore and then a major dip since.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:10 pm

Biggest issue: bad picks, poor development, scheme, or coaching?

The TeePee places most of the failures squarely on the lack of an effective scheme, very poor depth and development of players, and a total failure of “coaching”. Even the so-called “impact” free agents that have been brought into the mix under the CFA Smith regime have regressed or been disappointments. Robinson was SEVERELY overrated as was Edwards.

“Not versatile at nose tackle, 1-technique, or 5-technique … Struggles against bigger linemen … Overwhelmed against run occasionally … Injury history. “….this was the verbage from the NFL Combine brief on Peria Jerry. And we STILL took him. Are you kidding me? WASTED PICK!!!
Add to that he was some 30 pounds LIGHTER than Grady Jackson, the player he replaced. And tell me?

What in the hell happened to Trey Lewis? He came back from injury never to heard from again. Playe well in two games in 2009, then became a victim of the Smith WPP until he was cut in 2011.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:15 pm

D3, Brandon Jenkins is the latest in a line of FSU defensive ends that have tried to live off the legacy instead of making their own mark. He has immense talent if he can keep his head in the game. He could dominate at times and then look lost. He took plays off at times and it hurt him. And of course this season, he injured his knee and was lost for the season.

If he comes to play, he could be something special. Great talent but yet to see him put it all together.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:21 pm

Coaching…

As absent in ATL as players in the WPP. Again, with THREE defensive coordinators and a veteran DL coach on staff, why in the hell is this defense as pathetic in big games as it is? Why is there the inability to cover tight ends? Why is the interior rushing defense constantly blasted for an average of 4 to 6 yards so often? And do not even raise the issue of consistent pass rush?

When you have to move a defensive tackle outside to attempt to generate a pass rush, a DT that happens to be your BEST interior pass rusher mind you, you KNOW you have issues on the front.

When you have five defensive ends on your roster (Abe, Bier, Matthews, Sid, and Mass) and you STILL struggle to get into double digits for the season in terms of sacks, you have an issue.

Coaching? Non-exists. Care taking….aplenty in ATL.

D3

February 10th, 2013
10:21 pm

Smith’s famed 4-3 at Jax
DT’s
John Henderson – 6′7, 335
Marcus Stroud – 6′6, 310

Smith’s weak @ss 4-3 in ATL
DT’s
Babs – 6′2, 300
Jerry – 6′2, 295.

What gives?

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:25 pm

WILL the Falcons move to the 3-4? Simply put, as much as most of us want them to, the Falcons will never move to a 3-4 as long as CFA Smith is in charge. To do so would mean he would have to admit that his master scheme, a smaller, attacking defense, has failed.

We know it has…but he, CFA Smith, has not come to that realization yet. It can not stop the run on a consistent basis, it can not cover tight ends or intermediate pass routes, it consistently fails to stop third down conversions, and gives up big pass plays with regularity. The safeties, the free safety especially, is often out of positon, and the strong safety (who I love) is often injured. The corners take too many gambles and can be burned with ease. They lack fundamentals in tackling, often opting for the SportCenter highlight instead of consistent play. And those soft coverages…I mean, damn. Enough is enough.

Matty Bicep

February 10th, 2013
10:26 pm

Trey Lewis? He was a 6th round who worked his way into the starting lineup (So much for the WPP theory) by the end of his first year if I remember….he tore up an ACL, then re-injured it and missed about a season in a half, he came back, played a few games, but disappeared

He never surfaced anywhere else, my guess he knee was never the same..

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:32 pm

Smith’s famed 4-3 at Jax
DT’s
John Henderson – 6′7, 335
Marcus Stroud – 6′6, 310

Smith’s weak @ss 4-3 in ATL
DT’s
Babs – 6′2, 300
Jerry – 6′2, 295.

What gives?

Easy, my brother. He inherited that defense in JAX; He ignored the ability to build one in ATL. He has had his chances to build it here and FAILED.

For instance, in the same draft in which he fell in love with Hip Hip Peria, he could have pick a big DT in the form of Ron Brace (330), Terrance Knighton (330) and Roy Miller (315) to pair with Babs.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:37 pm

MB, you may be right. But Hip Hip’s production was nothing to get excited about ( and still is not). But you may correct. I would assume the emergence of Walker and Peters resulted in the release of Lewis. Yet, we kept adding DTs and expanding the WPP.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:40 pm

FYI…

Lewis was a starter in 2007 for the Pig Farmer/Motorcycle Jock. CFA Smith arrived after the injury and used Lewis sparingly, even after his rehabilitation and return.

Matty Bicep

February 10th, 2013
10:41 pm

Yall crack me up with the WPP….Who is Hip Hip?

Love_the_bird

February 10th, 2013
10:46 pm

No need for drastic change of players. The change will come from the coordinators. Falcons need someone who can see potential on every player and very good vision of the playoff games.

Matty Bicep

February 10th, 2013
10:47 pm

Hip Hip….Got it…..He was a miss, plain and simple…..

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:50 pm

Even last FA season, knowing that the defensive front was a liabiity, we could have made a move on free agent Red Bryant of Seattle. At 325 pounds, he could have been the catalyst around which Nolan could have transitioned to the 3-4 when he took over.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:53 pm

What’s been the biggest problem with this defense for the past 5 years?

“Falcons need someone who can see potential on every player and very good vision of the playoff games.” Love the Bird

Preach brother….preach!!

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
10:58 pm

Should the Falcons look at any defensive free agents?

Due to our fiscal issues, we can not afford any FAs that would be worth a look.

SeminoleWarrior

February 10th, 2013
11:02 pm

What positions need a major overhaul?

Should have started with “coaching changes”. Tim Lewis, Glenn Pires, and maybe even Sugar Bear Hamilton need to be looked at and possibly, replaced.

Perhaps it would help Nolan to bring in his own defensive team….not one that he inherited from Smith and one that has shown regression at their respective areas of “expertise”.

D3

February 10th, 2013
11:14 pm

SW — You and I are on the exact same page on this one. The regression our defense has taken (or at the very least the flatline) the past 5 years is astonishing.

Ken Strickland

February 11th, 2013
2:30 am

I wouldn’t be too quick on switch to the 3-4. Remember when we tried it before and it blew up in our faces because we didn’t have the personnel to make it work? That same DEF coordinator moved on to San Diego and immediately turned them into a top 5 DEF because they had the personnel he needed.

Chop Buster

February 11th, 2013
7:33 am

1) Quick Pick 6 – what should be the Falcons plan to get this defense right? Switch to the 3-4 as the base defense, get a monster NT, draft a fast, hard-hitting LB

2) What’s been the biggest problem with this defense for the past 5 years? No pass rush from the front 7 and guys not playing fundamentally, disciplined football. OL constantly get to our LBs and take them outta the picture.

3) Should the Falcons look at any defensive free agents? Only if they’re a proven game changer.

4) What should the Falcons focus on in the draft? NT/DT, LB, RB

5) What positions need a major overhaul? DT (too small and can’t get push up the middle)

6) What positions need minor adjustments? Safety

7) Biggest issue: bad picks, poor development, scheme, or coaching? Some bad picks and poor development. Coaching has been an issue at times.

8.) Should Falcons move to the 3-4? Definitely!

9) WILL the Falcons move to the 3-4? I believe so

10) Is TD or Mike Smith more indicted on the defensive issues? Both. Smitty is just as involved in player selection and he should know what type of player will excel in his defensive scheme. We saw zero creativity with the defense before Nolan’s arrival. Smitty was with him in Baltimore. Why couldn’t he have helped BVG design better defenses?

11) Can the defense be fixed quickly or is it a long road? I think if Nolan is involved and selects one or two key missing pieces that the defense can rebound quickly.

Chop Buster

February 11th, 2013
8:44 am

The bottom line with this defense is they still have the same issues that they did in 2008–lack of pass rush, cannot stop the run consistently, and safety play is sporadic. CBs have improved but not by much. Dunta is still chasing players by taking bad angles and just lacks speed. Dunta may be better off in the nickle position and let some younger, bigger, faster corners fight it out whose names isn’t Grimes. Even Asante is on the back end of his career and we need quality behind him for the future. Nicholas is a liability in our LB corp and we need bigger, faster LBs to cover today’s TEs & RBs.

rik warren

February 11th, 2013
8:57 am

Watching the collapse of the defense in second halves requiring the incredible comebacks what struck me time and time is the poor tackling of the team. The db s hit hard but fail to wrap them up. Over and over again.

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Have you seen the ketchup?

February 11th, 2013
10:47 am

moving to a 3-4 would be a good idea. Put Abraham and Babineaux at the ends and rotate Walker and Peters in the center. Throw Nicholas, Weatherspoon, Bierman, and Dent in the linebacker spots and you’re looking at a very talented defense.

D3

February 11th, 2013
11:06 am

ketchup — Agreed. It’s almost impossible to think about us STAYING in the 4-3, because it is way worse. We essentially have 3 to 4 defensive ends that are just not your standard 4-3 defensive ends (Biermann, Massaquoi, Matthews, and Sidbury if we keep him). Matthews would be the closest, but not sure he’s the answer in the 4-3. Biermann is just not an every down DE, despite what the coaching staff have tried to convert him. Not only that, but we’d essentially have to find TWO defensive ends in the 4-3 since Abe will 35 in a few months. Whereas, if we convert to the 3-4, we would need way less, since Biermann, Mass, Matthews, and maybe even Sidbury and / or Nicholas could be rush OLBs. We obviously would have to get a few big NTs (1 draft, 1 FA) and one or two 5-techniques, but it wouldn’t be nearly as impossible as trying to find two stud 4-3 DE’s, which clearly we can’t find or develop.

Current Roster

NT
Corey Peters
1st rd draft pick (John Jenkins, Jesse Williams, John Hankins)
1 FA big boy like Sammie Lee Hill

5-Technique DE’s
Babs (if we keep him)
Travian Robertson
Vance Walker
Corey Peters
Draft Pick

Rush OLBs
Abraham (if we keep)
Biermann
Massaquoi
Matthews
Sidbury (if we keep him)
Draft Pick

ILB
Spoon
Dent
Nicholas
Draft Pick

Voila!!!!!

Ken Strickland

February 11th, 2013
11:09 am

I don’t think switching DEF schemes is the answer. Regardless of what DEF front we choose to employ, we’ll still need DLinemen & LBs. LB & DE are the biggest DEF priorities that need to be addressed.

We need another SWeatherspoon type LB & a hybrid DE/LB like KBierman, but with better pass rushing skills. DT VWalker really excelled in Nolan’s system. I believe with a healthy CPeters, we’ll see much better DT production, even if we release Babs.

As long as Nolan plays his 5 DB 2 LB scheme, we’ll always have some difficulty stopping the run, especially up the middle. I’m not ready to call DT PJerry a bust just yet. Besides his injuries, he’s had 2 DCs with entirely different systems & philosophies.

If he doesn’t show noticable improvement this yr, then it’ll be time to declare him a bust. Bottomline, we need to add a LB & hybrid LB/DE or 2 with pass rushing skills. Improving our pass rush will work wonders towards improving our overall run & pass DEF.

An improved pass rush will help keep teams in 3rd & long situations, which will limit their willingness to run on 3rd downs.

Matty Bicep

February 11th, 2013
11:47 am

I do agree that our defense over the past 5 years has been average at best, and the reason we did not go to the SB had more to do with our defense than anything else, (although, when you turn it over on half your 2nd half possessions of the NFC championship game…. your asking a lot from your defense regardless of an early lead).

However, the majority of our resources have been spent on offense….In 5 years of drafting, we have invested 2 first round picks, and 1 second round pick on D.

So out of 10 first and 2nd round picks, only 3 went to defense….and one of those guys gets hurt early and may never play to potential. another has had his share in injury issues, not to mention we let one of our more productive defensive players walk, then our top 10 mil guy goes out for the season before his first play…..And you have what we got.

Sure we can point to a guy or two in the roster and ask why aren’t they difference makers, but I see it being more of a cap driven strategy, and some injury issues as more than a glaring incompetence, after all, it has served us pretty well, especially when you figure where we started, and we were one mistake ridden half of football, a back no-call and 10 yards away from the SB.

Again, in the NFL, you almost have to make a conscience decision where you are going to ham and egg it, and TD has chosen the defense.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
11:52 am

MB, I will give you your point on the defensive draft pick total. Which is why I think that this year should be a heavy focus on defense.

As a matter of fact, I would allocate five of the seven picks we officially have at this time to defense. The only two I would make on offense are for a running back (Taylor) and a slot WR (stay tuned).

Arno

February 11th, 2013
12:01 pm

Falcons are not asking, “Would we be better with a 3-4?” They are asking, “How do we beat Drew Brees?” We will move to the 3-4 if they feel it gives them a better shot.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
12:07 pm

Many a team have developed third and fourth round talent into effective starting personnel. Did not one Russell Wilson just take the football world (not the TeePee, though) by storm as he lead Seattle to with a drive of the NFC title game and a stunning upset of the Falcons? Did not the Saints pay fourth rounder Jahri Evans the largest contract ever awarded to a guard in FA?

Did not New England (and TD) find Ellis Hobbs in the third round? Did not TD and his scouts find Asante Samuel in the fourth round? How about the Eagles and Trent Cole in the fifth? Denver foudn Elvis Dumervil in the fourth and Tennessee got Courtland Finnegan in the seventh.

I do recall the Falcons finding a pretty good LB named Michael Boley in the fifth round.

Ohhhhh no my friend. There is an inability of this staff to develop players to its full potential. Too many guys have too many question considering the time they have been Falcons under this regime.

Matty Bicep

February 11th, 2013
12:11 pm

I agree, we need to go D on this draft, I would love a stud RB, but we have other needs, I don’t think we can go RB until the 4th pick at its earliest….It depends on if we have to figure out a way to replace TGs productivity. I think that is why they want TG to say so bad, so they don’t have to think slot, or spend a high pick on a RB, and upgrade the talent on D, then take a shot in the 7th on some offensive guys to see if we can strike gold.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
12:12 pm

“…and we were one mistake ridden half of football, a back no-call and 10 yards away from the SB. ”

It goes deeper than this. This MO has been a staple of games too often for the Falcons. Recall the pathetic effort given as we closed out the season against Tampa. Carolina pushed us around like there was nothing we could do defensively. As far as those mistakes, where were the adjustments from the staff. When it was clear, crystal clear that Turner was ineffective, why did we not use Snelling more if we had concerns about Rodgers and the workload?

Oh no. It keeps coming back to the football administrator and weaknesses, some glaring, that have been more persistant that we would like to see, especially on defense.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
12:17 pm

MB, the TeePee is convinced that if Chase Coffman is fully healthy, he can fill that gap and be a real surprise to many. The team has to look forward and stop trying to apply these band aids seeking one time glory.

Even if TG88 is brought back, the cost of keeping one man is not wise when you take into consideration the need to address so many other needs.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
12:20 pm

The bottom line with this defense is they still have the same issues that they did in 2008–lack of pass rush, cannot stop the run consistently, and safety play is sporadic. CBs have improved but not by much. Dunta is still chasing players by taking bad angles and just lacks speed. Dunta may be better off in the nickle position and let some younger, bigger, faster corners fight it out whose names isn’t Grimes. Even Asante is on the back end of his career and we need quality behind him for the future. Nicholas is a liability in our LB corp and we need bigger, faster LBs to cover today’s TEs & RBs…

Chop, the TeePee totally concurs with your assessment.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
12:25 pm

Massaquoi seems to be a favorite of a lot here in the Cage.

I liked his hustle and aggressive play at Troy but I also saw a lot of undisciplined, sometimes wreckless play as well. I certain hope that he has shown signs of maturity in his play as well as his approach to the game. Personally, I see him as a special teamer at best.

D3

February 11th, 2013
12:25 pm

Ken Strick — You and I rarely disagree my friend, but we’ll have to on this one. I think that a scheme change is needed for us to be successful. I think the current personnel is well more suited for the 3-4, rather than the 4-3. My main point is the defensive ends we have on our roster. Bier, Mass, Cliff Matt, Sidbury, and even Abe (now that he’s getting older) would prosper more as rush OLBs in a 3-4, but the biggest reason is simply that we’ve not been able to develop one single pass rusher, NOT ONE! Abe and Babs were here before Smith and TD. And Nolan does better with the 3-4 anyway.

Matty Bicep

February 11th, 2013
12:31 pm

SW, all your criticism is valid in a vacuum, but we were a 13-3 team if I recall. Picking and choosing games, or even points in games is not really too valid in reality.

the 49ers got hammered by the Giants AND Seattle, they looked really really really bad….but in the moment, they damn near won the SB. In the NFL, it just happens, you can find a million examples….it defies the logic you are using.

I did not see anything familiar in our loss to the 9ers, I did not recall us turning the ball over like we did at critical times. I liked our 2nd half playcalling, we moved the ball all over the place, but we shot ourselves in the foot….very very un-Falcon like, going back and trying to compare that to the Carolina game just does not connect to me.

backatcha

February 11th, 2013
12:34 pm

Hello everyone,

I’m not a defensive expert / specialist; however, the Falcons do not have the right personnel in place to be a very effective defense (SF does). Schemes can oftentimes mask vulnerabilities but they will eventually get exposed. To be fair, we did not have a great defense but a very good one especially in the red zone last season (I remember the year before teams being 4th and 20+ and being confident that they could go for it and get it and they usually would.) Seattle supposively had the no. 1 defense and look what we did to them. Also, we put a pretty good licking on SF. We definitely need to work at better penetration (we did better in the playoffs than we did in the regular season as great teams do) and another good corner. Nicholas was a disappointment in the playoffs but it is hard to find cover LB(s). I believe Akeem Dent will be a beast in years to come (Go Georgia.) Tight ends are getting faster and the more time a QB has, the worse it gets, this is why Brees & Rodgers were so effective against us. We will be fine, we have a great management, a great organization, great coaches and excellent players! I loved seeing Dunta in shock when the game was over (after the SF game) b/c it shows passion / concern / desire / determination (something I truly questioned over the years) and he’ll be hungry next year. We have to be patient and let this thing develop. We finally have an organization we can be proud of. The 80s were brutal for us in every aspect. I am glad for the tough schedule next season (for experience purposes!) I wonder what the attitudes will be like next season. In all honesty, we have only gotten better each of the last 5 seasons, I do not see us taking a step back next season!!!

Hamad Meander

February 11th, 2013
12:46 pm

I personally prefer the 4-3 to the 3-4 because I feel the type of players needed for the 3-4 doesn’t allow for truly innovative schemes on defense. You aren’t going to have a 300 lb end dropping back in coverage or playing special teams. The benefit to the 3-4 is that you can rush the QB with different looks, but if you don’t have the elite talent, you aren’t going to be successful. Mike Nolan has shown that he can beat elite offenses with the talent on board, which is scarce. With a slight infusion of talent at the DE and LB positions, this defense can be MUCH better.

Also, injuries played a big role this season – can you image what this defense would have done with Brent Grimes playing all year? Do you think we still would have lost to SF? What if we had waited on Lofton and gotten him at the price the Saints paid vs. what we thought he wanted? Would we had still lost to SF? I say no. That game was so close that an upgrade in either position would have been a game changer.

Draft a DE and a LB or sign one or two of these in free agency. Let Brent go (can’t afford whatever he is asking now), let Peterson go (he was still on the team?), find some guys that can rush the QB and we’ll be fine.

Though if we do go to the 3-4, I won’t be too upset, because it might mean less downs in the nickel, which we are probably in more than a base 4-3 anyway. We’ll just need to do a better job of bulking up the lineman to be strong enough to do the job. I am hesitant at trying to teach a completely new defense and still be able to make the playoffs and go far.

SeminoleWarrior

February 11th, 2013
12:59 pm

MB, we can agree to disagree, friend.

There is a record, one that we certainly do not like and that many want to not accept, of ineptness, lack of flexibility and aggression, poor scheme adjustments, and a lack of quality player development on this staff. This team has underachieved on too many big stages. Yes we won 13 games and I understand that you have to win ugly sometimes to achieve the goals.

But this is a pattern that this team seems to find itself in too many times. And that responsibility is clearly that of CFA Smith. He has to lead from the top.

My logic is that the 49ers may have lost badly to those teams. But the 49ers made adjustments when it mattered the most. Like the Seahawks the prior week, they assassinated a weak defensive effort that we had no adjustments for.

In both cases, leads of 17 points or better were surrendered. Why?

The same offense was on the field….it moved the ball well times. Why did it go conservative when tempo was needed the most….a trend that I remind you goes BACK to Mad Mike and the two playoff losses we had during his tenure in ATL. The common thread….the conservative nature of CFA Smith.

The Falcons had no defensive answers to the mobility of Newton, Wilson, or Kaepernick. The latter two assasins shreaded a secondary and linebacker coverage like clockwork, just like we saw Aaron Rodgers do three years ago.

Defensively, the more things change, especially in the playoffs, the more they stayed the same.

D3

February 11th, 2013
12:59 pm

SW, all your criticism is valid in a vacuum, but we were a 13-3 team if I recall. Picking and choosing games, or even points in games is not really too valid in reality. — MB

Here’s validity:

2013 Playoffs

3rd Qtr: Atlanta Falcons – 27, Seattle Seahawks – 7
4th Qtr (32 secs) Atlanta Falcons – 27; Seattle Seahawks – 28

NFCCG

1st Qtr: Atlanta Falcons – 17, San Francisco 49ers – 0
End of Regulation: Atlanta Falcons – 24; San Francisco 49ers – 28 (ball game)

Argue for the sake of arguing.

Matty Bicep

February 11th, 2013
1:23 pm

But this is a pattern that this team seems to find itself in too many times.

I did not disagree that we have seen patterns, in many losses, and in some wins as you point out.

These patterns have been TW carries, and guys getting in Ryan face, a lot of 3 and outs….. BUT I did not see anything familiar on the offensive side of the ball it in NFC championship game….or the Seattle game for that matter…But I did saw critical turnovers, I saw defensive meltdowns. Hell, in the 49ers game we threw the ball 66% of the plays, how is that going into turtle mode?

I just go by what I see….agree to disagree.

“You’d argue with a d@mn 3 year old, I swear”….And sometimes, I feel like I am…DOH….Sorry, you teed that one up.

D3

February 11th, 2013
1:35 pm

Again, arguing for the sake of arguing. I’ll go back to my ignore mode now. Don’t worry about any more engagement from me.

Just talk to yourself, like you always do anyway.