Evaluating the Falcons: Defensive Line
This unit as a whole was a disappointment this year. Going into the season, many thought that the Falcons could have arguably the best starting four in the business with Kerney, Abraham, Coleman, and Jackson. But it proved not to be.
Kerney, Abraham, and Coleman all battled injuries throughout the season. Jackson too was nicked up often, but didn’t miss a game. Coleman only missed one, but for much of the middle portion of the year he seemed less than normal, which could be attributed to probably not being 100%.
The biggest concern here going into 2007 is the defensive end spot. Jonathan Babineaux played well in Coleman’s absence at times, and if he can build on those performances, he should be very productive this year. Darrell Shropshire and T.J. Jackson didn’t do much, but Jackson had his moments. If Coleman is healthy, and if Grady is in shape, there’s no reason to believe defensive tackle will be relatively strong next year.
But as for defensive end, there are serious concerns about the durability of John Abraham. Abraham only played in 8 games all year long, and played well when he was on the field, but the Falcons have to get more from him. On the other side, there are questions on whether Patrick Kerney will and should come back. Kerney will be 30 at the start of this season, and hasn’t had a double-digit sack season since 2004. He missed 7 games with a chest injury. He is no longer that top flight pass rusher he used to be, and when you consider the potential price tag it would take to retain him, I personally don’t think he’s worth it.
But if we lost Kerney that would leave a void at the defensive end position. Paul Carrington, Josh Mallard, and Chauncey Davis each had their moments last season, but none are ready to be starters in the NFL, including Davis who started 14 games last year. Davis is not a pass rusher, with only 2 career sacks. Carrington and Mallard showed potential as situational guys, but neither are ready to be starters. The Falcons should address this in the off-season.
They could sign a free agent. Perhaps someone like Dewayne White from the Bucs, who was the top pick for that team in McKay’s last draft there. White has shown he is a very effective player coming off the bench, and was arguably their best defensive end last year with disappointing years from both Simeon Rice and Greg Spires.
Or the team could look to draft one. This is a pretty strong defensive end class near the top, and the Falcons have a chance to get any of the top pass rushers in this class with the tenth overall pick.
Either way, the Falcons will make a significant move at defensive end this off-season, whether it’s re-signing Kerney, drafting a top rookie, or signing a free agent. As for off-season plans at defensive tackle, the Falcons could draft someone, but it would only be to try and boost the rotation. Defensive tackle looks like it might be a need next off-season as opposed to now, so it won’t hurt the team if they don’t acquire someone significant, just yet.