The Atlanta Falcons 2013 season is drawing ever closer (1 week from Thursday, but who’s counting) fans are getting pumped and excited about the long wait finally being over. It seems as though it’s been an eternity since the NFL Draft and eons since the Falcons fell a few yards short of their Super Bowl bid. But, alas, the long wait is almost mercifully over. Over the next few weeks running up to preseason, The Cage will look not only at the major position battles, points of strength, but also areas that could be the Falcons Achilles Heel. One such area that’s keeping fans up at night, or at least should be, is the defensive tackle situation. Here’s a look at how the Falcons defensive tacklea did in 2012 and how they’re rolling into the 2013 at DT:
Thanks to ProFootballFocus (subscription required) for their comprehensive statistics.
While Vance Walker hasn’t been the biggest of names the last 4 years, hardcore fans know exactly what he’s meant to Atlanta since being drafted I’m the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft. In terms of pure value, he may have been the Falcons best example of player development the last 5 years (something that many feel is an issue @ Flowery Branch).
Vance Walker Stats per PFF:
(Out of 85 total DTs, 4-3 and 3-4); Overall – 17th (+7.6); Pass Rush – 34th(+1.5); Run Defense – 26th (+2.9); Sacks – Tied 21st (3); QB Hits – 53rd (1); QB Hurries – 18th (15)
Although Walker had became known as a solid rotational d-tackle, according to ProFootballFocus he was the Falcons best overall DT and topped his position mates in overall ranking, coming in as the 16th best DT. In fact, Walker made 5 starts before being replaced by the ineffective Corey Peters, who likely never fully recovered from his injury. The Raiders paid Walker a 1 year, $2 million contract and he likely has a better chance to earn a shot as a permanent starter. While it’s understandable the Falcons can’t keep all of their draft picks that become free agents, Dimitroff has always kept the ones they’ve deemed worthy. It’s likely that Travian Robertson will slide into Walkers vacated spot, but couldn’t they have kept Walker, parted ways with Peria Jerry, moved Robertson in the rotation and had a much deeper and better DT position?
Jonathan Babineaux Stats per PFF:
(Out of 85 total DTs, 4-3 and 3-4); Overall – 38th (+3.5); Pass Rush – 26th (+2.5); Run Defense – 56th (-3.3); Sacks – Tied 6th (5); QB Hits – 45th (3); QB Hurries – 14th (20)
After John Abraham wasn’t re-signed in free agency, Jonathan Babineaux became the Falcons only remaining defensive player with any consistency whatsoever. He turns 32 in October and he’s one of the only remaining players that is a holdover from the previous regime. Some thought he may get cut when Abraham, Dunta Robinson, and Michael Turner, but Flowery Branch elected to keep him along the defensive line. The former Iowa Buckeye enters the last year of his contract and he’s been one of the few players that have shown an ability to get after the quarterback, especially considering the instability alongside him at defensive tackle. Imagine how good he may have been with a stud DT right beside him. The DL is so paper thin that the Falcons can ill afford to lose Babineaux to any injury or digression due to age. Hopefully, he has enough to for one more year.
Corey Peters Stats per PFF:
(Out of 85 total DTs, 4-3 and 3-4); Overall – 84th (-13.3); Pass Rush – 57th (-2.1); Run Defense – 85th (-12.2); Sacks – 0; QB Hits – 0; QB Hurries – 28th (12)
Pretty much all Falcons fans knew that Corey Peters never really recovered from the injury that plagued him through mini-camp and all of training camp. In fact, he wasn’t activated until week 6 or so in the regular season. The former Kentucky Wildcat had an excellent breakout season in 2011, registering 3 sacks and generally being one of the best Falcons players on the entire defense. It’s understandable that he would have a down year, but those numbers above aren’t a mistake. He was next to dead last in ProFootballFocus’ defensive tackle rankings. He generally had a very down year and most will just chalk it up to injury. With Babineaux turning 32 and hitting the last year of his contract, Peria Jerry never living up to his draft status, Travian Robertson never playing much, and a slew of undrafted free agents behind them, Flowery Branch and fans alike are desperately hoping that Peters bounces back to his old form.
Rest of post coming soon…………..