Posted: 3:00 p.m. Monday, July 29, 2013
By Dave Choate
Mike Nolan gave the Falcons a few interesting fronts in 2012, part of his strategy to mask some of the team's weaknesses and emphasize the defense's athletic strengths. If you thought 2012 was cool, you'll love 2013.
That's because the Falcons are going to switch things up to an even greater degree in 2013. Part of that is due to Nolan having more of the personnel he wants on this defense, and part of it is just taking the next logical step. Hearing that Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann are getting snaps at linebacker, Jonathan Babineaux is kicking out to end again and Cliff Matthews is bulking up to move inside means lots of moving fronts.
It also blurs the line between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense as necessary, something the Falcons couldn't quite do a year ago due to limitations with personnel. You shouldn't be surprised at all to see Travian Robertson anchoring the middle with Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux outside, and you shouldn't be surprised to see 4-3 packages with Biermann at linebacker. The mere ability to switch things up ensures opposing offenses will have to account for many different looks.
I view that as a good thing. It's hard to look at this team as currently constructed and believe there's a 10 sack guy in the bunch, but a morphing front will give plenty of players chances at picking up a handful. It also papers over some weaknesses, with Biermann likely adding value as a run-stopper at linebacker when Stephen Nicholas can't quite get the job done. And so on.
This won't be the league's best defense, but it's one worth getting excited about.