Camp Battles 2013: Defensive Tackle
Like many other positions, there is no real concern over the starters at defensive tackle for the Falcons as Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters both return. Babineaux has been a fixture since the 2008 season, and Peters since 2010. Peters missed last summer with a foot injury that limited his effectiveness in 2012. He hopes to respond with a stronger year that can be buoyed into a long-term contract by the team.
The bigger questions at this position come in terms of the depth. The Falcons have already been linked to free agent Richard Seymour as a possible addition throughout the summer, although talks were broken off in June. Then, Seymour sounded like a player prepared to retire if no NFL team was willing to meet his price. The possibility still remains that Seymour could be signed to the team. If so, then he almost certainly will be the team’s top reserve at the position. If not, then there will be a fairly wide-open competition for the spot.
The incumbent is former first round pick Peria Jerry, who has had a disappointing career in Atlanta. Jerry becomes a potential candidate for release as the team could save nearly a million dollars against their 2013 cap by doing so. But that will only come if the team is comfortable with one of the other defensive tackles being the top backup at the position.
The likeliest player would be second-year Travian Robertson. Robertson garnered limited playing time last year, but had an impressive summer showcasing his ability to be a disruptive run defender and capable pass rusher. Also in the mix is Micanor Regis, who also had a good summer last year alongside Robertson. Regis is athletic and offers more size to plug the middle in run defense. He can potentially play a role at the nose tackle position when the Falcons incorporate more 3-man fronts on their defense.
But to unseat Jerry, at least one if not both are going to need to have strong summers. Robertson is as close to a lock to make the final roster, regardless of whether it’s as the third or fourth player in the rotation. At this point, Regis may be looking more at a practice squad spot. But the Falcons carried five defensive tackles last year on the roster (Vance Walker being the other), and Regis adds similar potential value to the unit as the bulky run defender like Walker.
Also in the mix will be undrafted rookies Adam Replogle and Neal Huynh. Replogle is an athletic player that offers potential as a pass rusher. Huynh is more of a run stopper that can add depth at nose tackle. Both players are longshots to make the final roster, but certainly will be prime candidates to make the practice squad.
The Falcons interest in Seymour indicates the possibility, if not likelihood that they could be looking for more help at this position by the end of summer even if Seymour isn’t picked up. If Seymour is the indicator, an established veteran that is well-versed in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense would be a prime candidate.