Which Atlanta Falcons Defensive Tackles will Miss the Cut?

Several Players will Be Looking for New Teams

Hageman a Certain Lock (foxsports)

Defensive line, a source of strength and competition? For the Atlanta Falcons? Surely, you jest. Well, that’s exactly what seems to be ready to play out this season as the Falcons head into 2014. The defensive line, specifically the defensive tackle position, has been a major source of weakness for a long, long time. That seems to be turned on it’s head this year and fans couldn’t be happier. A look at the defensive line players job security heading into 2014.

The Numbers

Nolan’s Getting More Stamp on D

Two years of a Mike Nolan defense has had 10 slots available for defensive linemen. That has equaled 6 defensive ends and 4 defensive tackles. In both scenarios, it usually has at least one or two that have been able to swing between playing tackle and end. That swing DL has been Cliff Matthews the last two seasons. Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, and Travian Robertson have been locks the last two years, and Corey Peters was added when he was healed from his injury in 2012, and in that case they carried 5 DT’s. That can change this year since several players could be considered outside linebackers in more of a 3-4 scheme, such as Kroy Biermann, Stansly Maponga, and possibly Osi Umenyiora. It may be hard to predict this year with the stubborn refusal of Mike Smith to “commit to any base defense,” but it likely will look more like a 3-4 setup.

Locks

Paul Soliai

Soliai a Surefire Lock

Like Jackson, Soliai was signed in free agency and immediately adds a long needed bulk to the Falcons DL. He received a 5 year / $32 million contract, but the key number to look at is his $11 million guaranteed. He’s currently 30 years old and will turn 31 at the end of the season. They have the option to keep Soliai for the entire deal, but at a minimum of 2 years / $5.5 million, that’s not very bad at all. It also will give them time to develop a large nose tackle to take over for him if they intend to stay in the 3-4. If we’re talking 2016, than Soliai might be in question, but now he’s a welcome lock.

Jonathan Babineaux

Babs the Grizzled Vet DT

If not for the new contract, Babineaux would obviously not be considered a lock and he really won’t going forward after this year. He signed a 3 year / $9 million contract, but only $4 million was guaranteed. Even though he’s still playing good and hasn’t shown a ton of slowdown, he will turn 33 years old in October and the 3 years probably represent a sort of “retirement contract” where the Falcons want to keep him until he decides to hang it up. He’ll definitely play this year and likely next, but it’s hard to see the longtime Falcon lasting until 35 years of age. He will probably be playing a lot of 5-technique in 3-4 looks and of course can slide inside if need be.

Ra’Shede Hageman

The second round pick from Minnesota could be considered a defensive end, but it’s likely he’ll be playing the same role as Babineaux mostly at the 5-technique in the 3-4, but after Soliai, he will likely be the biggest DT and could be called on to play nose tackle if need be and will probably move inside in a 4-3. He may not earn a starting spot right out of the gates, but he’s finally a future stud inside (hopefully) to build around going forward.

Solid

Corey Peters

Peters all About the Health

Peters was injured about as late as possible and it couldn’t have been worse timing for Peters, as he was approaching his first free agency. The Falcons did the right thing by Peters in bringing him back on a “prove-it” contract and for a pretty fair deal for 1 year / $1.6 million. Where it gets interesting is the fact that he doesn’t appear to have any of the money guaranteed, but he does have a roster bonus of just under $500,000. It’s conceivable that the Falcons may judge Peters as not being where he needs to be and parting ways with him, but the likeliest route is him being placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start the season and they can make room for him when he gets well, the same as they did in 2012. The only issue is the the fact that the Falcons wouldn’t have any other bulk outside of Soliai and Hageman (318) and the rest of their DT’s would be under 300 lbs. If he’s healthy, he will be a lock, but that’s the issue at hand for 2014. Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine the Falcons not giving Peters every opportunity to come back and for them to keep him considering he’s the only DT worth any value that they’ve actually developed in 6 years.

On the Bubble

Peria Jerry

The End for Jerry?

It was a pleasant surprise when the Falcons didn’t lock up Jerry before free agency started. A few weeks passed in free agency and, sure enough, the Falcons just couldn’t kick their Jerry habit. At the time, fans weren’t terribly bothered because they had already re-upped Babineaux, signed Jackson and Soliai, and it was for barely above the league minimum (1 year / $895,000). Some did fear that it would prevent the Falcons going for another DT in the draft, but that was of course allayed when Hageman was taken in the 2nd. At this point, it’s really a win-win for the Falcons and it really does help to act as insurance for Peters health issues. Ultimately, this will come down to a numbers game and whether or not he can beat out not only fellow DT’s like Travian Robertson, but also the DE hybrids like Cliff Matthews and Malliciah Goodman to for that 5-technique backup spot. Right now it feels as though Jerry’s days are numbered, but he will likely win the battle to fill the spot if Corey Peters is put on the PUP list.

Outside Looking In

Travian Robertson

Robertson on Outside?

When bringing this topic up, the first player that most will think of is Robertson. He’s been the fourth option for 2 years running, but it seems as though his time might finally come to an end. He’s only managed to appear in 12 games (with a minimal number of snaps) and 4 total tackles. The thought is that since he couldn’t breakthrough in two years, and one of them being a lost trainwreck season, that he’s had his chance and is nothing more than a backup. However, he does weigh in a little heavier (304) than Jerry (295) and he could make a run for that 4th DT spot, especially if Peters isn’t ready to go. But it looks like it will be a very tough climb this year.

Needs a Miracle

Donte Rumph

Rumph a Longshot (kentucky.com)

The former Kentucky Wildcat signed on with the Falcons after the draft as an undrafted free agent. On the surface, it’s hard to believe that Rumph wasn’t drafted after having a pretty good career in the rough and tumble SEC (starting 48 games) and pulling down 15 tackles for loss and 7 sacks in the process. He does have his size working for him (6’3, 320) weighing in as the biggest DT outside of Soliai. But if we’ve learned anything about the NFL, it’s that undrafted free agents almost never make the full leap all the way up to the 53 man roster. There’s a great chance he could make it on the practice squad, but doubtful he’ll be the one as the last option with so much other competition. On the other hand, just ask Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu if it’s possible.

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127 thoughts on “Which Atlanta Falcons Defensive Tackles will Miss the Cut?

  1. Arno

    If they put Worrilow into the ILB leadership role in place of Spoon, it’ll be a big change. Not that he can’t do it. But his style of communication is completely different. If you’ve seen him on interviews, he’s understated and dead serious. I’ll not be happy if they panic and bring in some experienced vet to patch things up. We know how that’s been working out….

    Reply
  2. Ken Strickland

    http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2014/6/11/5796456/nfc-south-tampa-bay-buccaneers-offseason-atlanta-falcons-opponents

    This is a perfect example of the bias towards the Falcons I’ve been talking about. Despite last yrs Bucs OFF being the NFLs worst, & them not addressing their QB, RB or OL issues, this clown actually rates them as the 2nd best team in the NFC South. Their DEF was decent last yr, finishing 17th, but it wasn’t decent enough to overcome their bottom feeding OFF & preventing them from finishing 4-12 just like us.

    We improved our OL big time, they didn’t, we improved our RB depth, they didn’t, & when is the last time the Bucs had a QB as good as MRyan?

    Reply
  3. Paddy O

    article indicated spoon ruptured his Achilles just running with medical staff? how is that possible? heavy steroid use? a real bummer – and yeah, I would rate spoon a relative bust due to his extensive injury history and lack of impact. a bummer. Had high hopes for him.

    Reply
  4. waynester

    Away for a day and you miss a lot–Lord, I feel sorry for Sean and will be praying for a full recovery and that he won’t get too down mentally….awful–just awful….

    Reply
  5. seminole31

    K Strick

    As far as the free agents go, the only one that the Tee Pee could go for is Freeman. Alexander and Thomas both have had a history of significant ACL injury (two surgeries each with intermittent issues thereafter). No need to go there in either case especially given the youth in place.

    Fullback is set in my opinion so McClain is a no go. And given the spinal fusion issues associated with Finley, I would not take that chance. If we are in need of a receiving tight end, I am still holding out hope for the FORMER tight end of the future, Chase Coffman. I have a feeling he may be back in the mix at some time down the road.

    Reply
  6. waynester

    SW
    If someone else doesn’t grab him first…
    He just never played at his collegiate level in the pros. some guys don’t, whether scheme or injury, they just don’t reach their potential….

    Reply
  7. seminole31

    Waynester

    You make a fair point my brother on Coffman. That MIZZOU potential, like was the case with Spoon and Hood, has not truly translated to the NFL as you indicated. It is one strange set of circumstances because there is no void in terms of talent in any of the young men.

    Reply
  8. seminole31

    K Strick

    Let me first say that I mean no disrespect in the comments that follow. But the Tampa article has merit in the Tee Pee’s eyes. I would not go as far as to “guarantee” them second place in the division but there, like the Falcons, will be improved.

    Where I disagree with you my friend is in the addressing issues points. First, like ATL, they get some serious talent back healthy in 2014. The Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin, returns to serve as the catalyst for the running game. And sorry, Martin is better than ANY running back on the Atlanta roster at this time. If he stays healthy, he is a beast of a ball carrier and receiving threat.

    On the offensive line, LT Anthony Collins is a young, talented upgrade at the position over last year’s Donald Penn. As you know, I have been an advocate of acquiring Collins for years instead of keeping Sam Baker long term. Additionally, Carl Nicks returns at guard and the signing of C Evan Detrich-Smith was a great move.

    Their receiving corps is now MUCH larger with the acquisition of Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans. And while McCowan is no Matt Ryan, he is enough of a “Trent Dilfer” to keep the ship steady.

    The KEY is whether or not new OC Jeff Tedford can translate his collegiate offensive successes to the NFL.

    Make no mistake…With Rivera and Smith, you know that defenses are going to be aggressively stout. Offenses are going to be tempo-controlling and carefully orchestrated. By comparison, Atlanta and New Orleans want to attack quickly and often offensively while playing safe defense.

    It will be a very interesting year in the NFC South. History will repeat itself. The previous champion will NOT repeat.

    Reply
  9. seminole31

    K Strick @ 1:39

    Given the significant investment made in terms of the DL upgrade, I feel that the secondary can be a force. And like the article author, I do not under-estimate the Lowery factor if he can stay healthy. If he does, then TD will have restored some faith with the Tee Pee by finding him on the scrap pile and integrating him into the designs of Nolan.

    Damned, it is SWEET to have REAL depth…….

    Reply
  10. Greg Mendel

    Been busy and finally found my way back. Anybody going to the free Falcons minicamps on June 16 & 17?

    Reply
  11. Greg Mendel

    Thanks, JB. I know NASCAR is your territory, but have you seen the movie “Rush?” Directed by Oppie (Ron Howard). Not a hardcore racing movie, but a good flick. (Formula 1)

    Reply
  12. JB Falcon

    GM. I’m old school, if it ain’t on TV, I don’t watch it. As such, I don’t see any football movies either. I’d rather watch the real thing. If a race and a football game is on at the same time? Football!!

    Reply
  13. Greg Mendel

    I understand, JB. In my early years, I was crazy about road racing (sports cars, Formula 1). I drove two-seater sports cars, mainly British and Italian, which, ultimately, drove me nuts. I went ot Sebring, spent many weekends at Road Atlanta and attended the 1975 French Grand Prix. I had the pleasure of driving around the Nurburgring, fortified with several German beers.

    Then we had kids.

    Reply
  14. JB Falcon

    Greg, no offense but my background and interests are drag racing and Nascar. The Formula 1 and Indy cars are a different breed although a lot more technical. Paddle shifts, electronic controls, and so forth to me, is like driving a souped up go cart.
    I did own a 427 Shelby Cobra at one time (the two seater) and always wanted to take it to Road Atlanta. I traded it for a Dodge Viper and realized the Cobra was old school as far as handling goes. It did require a lot more amount of skill.
    Bottom line, the last ten laps of a race is like the last two minutes of a football game. Sports Excitement!

    Reply
  15. Hamad Meander

    JB I hope that 427 Cobra was a recreation or replicar, because if it was original, you could have traded it for 10 Vipers.

    Reply
  16. Paddy O

    depends on the track regarding NASCAR – if at usually at Talladega, last 25 laps are hot – but, the recent race in May – the drivers raced every lap – was the best race I’ve seen there. If you go short track – which is MUCH better entertainment – the last 50 or so laps usually get hyped up.

    Reply

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