Originally, I was going to make pass rush the Falcons’ weak spot, but I believe they potentially have one of the best interior pass-rush combinations in Peria Jerry, last year’s first-round draft pick, and the vastly underrated Jonathan Babineaux. Rookie Corey Peters also could factor in as an upfield interior player in this capacity and will become even more important if Babineaux is suspended for his off-field behavior or if Jerry doesn’t return to top form after his knee injury.
But the end position still worries me for Atlanta, although I also believe it isn’t as big of a weakness as many tend to think.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of what Jamaal Anderson has done since being such a high draft pick, but he is a big body who can play the run. His pass rush is a liability and it may also remain a deficiency, but as run-stopping base ends go, you could do a lot worse than Anderson, and he still has room to improve. But he really isn’t someone you want on the field on third-and-long.
Another unknown -- like Babineaux -- is Kroy Biermann. Biermann may not be ready to handle the rigors of an every-down role, but I am high on what he does bring to the table as a substitute for Anderson on throwing downs and as someone who can lighten John Abraham’s load on a play-by-play basis. Biermann had a fine 2009 season and should see his snap count rise dramatically. He brings quite a bit to the table as a pass-rusher and can hold his own as a run player. Biermann is an up-and-comer.
But Abraham worries me. I understand he was the focus of every opponent’s pass protection scheme, but I am also a believer that he just wasn’t as good in 2009 as he had been in previous seasons. Abraham, who is always a durability risk, needs to spend more of his snaps focused on passing downs. A guy such as Biermann, and to a lesser extent Chauncey Davis or Lawrence Sidbury, could help keep the aging veteran fresh for when the Falcons need him most.
Abraham’s age (32) also is a big worry and depth here is just average. There also have been rumblings that Anderson might not even make the team this season, which I personally find hard to believe. But when writing these team weaknesses pieces, most teams have a much bigger problem than what the Falcons have at defensive end.