Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the 12th best player in defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 63.5/100
Last year’s rank: 10th
Player Grade: 63/100
Teams he is starter: 19 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 7 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +0
Positional Bonus: +3
Like Roddy White, there is no denying that Babineaux is no longer the player he was a few years ago. But Babs’ decline in recent years has been a bit more gradual than his fellow 2005 draftee.
For most of last year, Babineaux was the team’s best defensive lineman. Able to get penetration and disrupt plays in the backfield as well as being the team’s most reliable pass-rusher, Babineaux still offers significant value to the Falcons defense.
Even as Babineaux approaches his 34th birthday this October, there is hope that 2015 marks a mini-resurgence for him. That will be tied heavily to the expectation that he will see a significant reduction in snaps this season with Dan Quinn taking over the defense.
Babineaux played in 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps over the past three seasons, but if Quinn follows a similar precedent as he did during his days coordinating the defense of the Seattle Seahawks, there’s a reason to expect that Babineaux’s workload could drop to below 50 or 60 percent of defensive plays. The early returns seem to strongly indicate that will indeed be the case.
The actual value of that reduction could mean anywhere between 12 to 20 less plays per game. That certainly should be considerably less wear on the veteran and leave Babineaux fresher down the stretch should the Falcons be in playoff contention.
It should also mean that Babineaux will be getting considerably more opportunities to rush the quarterback, which is probably the best utilization of his remaining skills. While players like Ra’Shede Hageman and Grady Jarrett may one day become better pass-rushers than Babineaux, that day has not yet arrived given the veteran’s much more developed array of moves and hand usage. Thus why Babineaux is expected to be a fixture in the team’s nickel sub-package at defensive tackle, with the likelihood that the team will rotate the other spot between Hageman, Jarrett and Adrian Clayborn.
Like White, Babineaux isn’t going to be able to reverse time and play like the player he was several years ago when he was one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Yet the Falcons are optimistic that despite Babineaux seeing less snaps this year, that he can appear more youthful and have a greater impact than he has in recent years.