The NFL’s announcement that Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux will be suspended for the season opener is not good news in any way. But it certainly wasn’t unexpected and it absolutely was something the Falcons prepared for.
BabineauxBabineaux got into some legal trouble last year and the one-game suspension is officially for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Falcons almost certainly knew this was coming throughout the entire offseason and they had time to prepare for the fallout.
This is part of the reason they used a third-round pick on defensive tackle Corey Peters. They’re also expecting last year’s first-round pick, Peria Jerry, to be back from an injury that forced him to miss almost his entire rookie season. There are plenty of other options.
“Last year on our depth chart Vance Walker played (Babineaux’s) position and DT Trey Lewis would have backed up on the other side, but the positions are interchangeable,’’ coach Mike Smith said. “We are playing both left and right defensive tackles.”
Babineaux’s spot in the starting lineup for the long term is safe because he was the team’s best defensive lineman last year. The Falcons also slide defensive end Jamaal Anderson inside sometimes, so there are plenty of options and veteran Thomas Johnson got 10 starts last year.
Sure, the absence of Babineaux is in no way a positive. But it’s only for one game. Keep in mind, that game is against Pittsburgh, which will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
For the record, Babineaux will be allowed to continue practicing and playing through the preseason. He’ll have to be away from the team starting exactly one week before the opener. He’ll be eligible to return to practice the day after the game with the Steelers.