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Why Brent Grimes Didn’t Get a Long-Term Deal

July 17th, 2012 1 comment
Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Brent Grimes

The Monday, July 16 deadline for when franchise players could get long-term deals done passed without Falcons corner Brent Grimes getting one. That outcome was not a surprise given how little movement and noise had been made in recent weeks.

The Falcons appear to be in a position to play wait and see with Grimes. The team picked up Asante Samuel this off-season, and the team is trying to get a return on their substantial investment in Dunta Robinson this year by moving him inside in nickel situations. Essentially, if Grimes has a good season then he’ll likely land the long-term deal he seeks next off-season. But the Falcons want to be sure that they are not committing another huge deal to a player that does not deserve it. Because while the Falcons brass won’t admit it, they aren’t too thrilled about the Robinson deal they gave out two years ago.

Robinson received $57 million over six years, and nearly $25 million in guaranteed money. That was and remains roughly market value for a top No. 1 corner. Unfortunately, Robinson has been anything but that caliber of player. On the other hand, Grimes has been. You would be hard-pressed to find a corner outside Darrelle Revis and Samuel that has collectively played better the past two seasons than Grimes. Yet the Falcons appear to be reluctant to make such a big investment unless they deem that player to be essential. And right or wrong, it’s clear that this team doesn’t view Grimes as an essential piece.

And from a certain perspective that is understandable, now that the team has added Samuel and decided to move Robinson inside to the slot. If Samuel continues to play at a high level, and there is a significant uptick in Robinson’s play so that he appears to solidify a nickel spot that has been a major weakness for this defense for three years running, then committing $50 million or more to Grimes isn’t the smartest financial decision. Especially when you have players like Dominique Franks and Chris Owens on the roster. While they are not nearly the players that Grimes is, the Falcons only have to commit roughly $1.9 million to the pair over the next two seasons. Had the Falcons given Grimes the exact same contract as Cortland Finnegan received from the Rams this off-season (5 yrs., $50 million), that figure would be around $24 million. So while you may only be getting one half of the player, you’re getting him for one-twelfth the price.

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Deadline approaches for long-term deal for Grimes

July 9th, 2012 Comments off
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Brent Grimes

On July 16, the deadline for teams to sign their franchise players to long-term deals comes and goes. Which means that a week remains for the Falcons to lock up Brent Grimes to a long-term deal. If not, then Grimes will play out his one-year franchise tender in the hopes that a long-term deal will come after the 2012 season. A week ago, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports indicated the odds that Grimes receives a long-term deal from the Falcons as “fair.” La Canfora indicated that due to the money already invested in fellow corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel, the Falcons may opt to take a wait and see approach to see how the 2012 season plays out between the three before handing out big dollars to Grimes.

Grimes already signed his tender in April, so there won’t be the threat of any holdout if the July 16 deadline comes and passes without a new deal. But the price tag for the Falcons will likely only increase if a deal isn’t struck sooner rather than later. Grimes will then become a free agent following the 2012 season and if the Falcons choose to tag him again, his tender will increase by 20% from the current $10.262 million to around $12.3 million in 2013. Next year, the Falcons most prominent free agents include Tony Gonzalez, William Moore, Vince Manuwai, and Todd McClure, thus making Grimes again the likeliest candidate for a tag.

Little word has been publicly noted about what type of deal Grimes is looking for. It’s likely a deal that approaches or exceeds $50 million in total value. Already this off-season, three free agents have received deals that exceeded that mark: Lardarius Webb (six years, $52.7 million), Cortland Finnegan (five years, $50 million), and Brandon Carr (five years, $50.1 million). It’s likely that Finnegan’s and Carr’s deals will be used to scaffold any potential deal for Grimes since they include the most guaranteed money ($24 and $25.5 million, respectively) and payouts over the first three years (both receive $33 million).

The Falcons gave out $22.5 million in guaranteed money to Robinson back in 2010 as part of a six-year, $57 million deal. They restructured his deal this past off-season, which makes his entire 2012 base salary of $5 million guaranteed, and $3 million of his $8 million base salary next year guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the league year starting in early March. Essentially it puts the Falcons in a position where they could part ways with Robinson or Grimes after this season depending on who proves to be the more valuable commodity in 2012. Robinson is a year older, but also serves the more valuable role as slot corner. For Samuel, his new three-year, $18.5 million deal only includes about $4.375 million in guaranteed money, but he has escalators in the deal tied to performance. Samuel and Grimes have similar games, both being undersized but highly instinctual ball-hawks. So if the Falcons opt to let Grimes play out his one-year deal and walk next year, they have a replacement already in Samuel. If they opt to part ways with Robinson, then it would require the team to get a new slot corner (although Dominique Franks is a possibility). But either way, the odds don’t appear to be greatly favoring the long-term viability of the triple threat of Grimes, Robinson, and Samuel at cornerback here in Atlanta.

Next year, the competition for new contracts for corners could heat up. Along with Grimes, potentially Tracy Porter (Broncos), Aqib Talib (Buccaneers), Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer (Chargers), Mike Jenkins (Cowboys), Sean Smith (Dolphins), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Eagles), Chris Houston (Lions), Jabari Greer (Saints), and Jason McCourty (Titans) will hit the open market. Jets corner Darrelle Revis is also looking for a new deal that doesn’t seem likely to come before the 2012 season starts, but could be done afterwards which could raise the price tag of Grimes.

For now, with what is estimated to be under $3 million in 2012 cap space, the Falcons don’t need to get Grimes signed to a long-term deal and lower his 2012 cap hit. But it certainly would help and allow the team to carry over whatever savings they reap this year into next year’s salary cap. So it would certainly benefit to create as much salary cap space as possible this year to benefit them next year.

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2012 Key Player: Asante Samuel

June 3rd, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Asante Samuel

The Falcons biggest off-season addition is cornerback Asante Samuel. The Falcons got Samuel at a bargain and potential steal if he performs up to his abilities, making him one of the key players for 2012.

Samuel’s impact and ability to perform with this team this year will work in heavy conjunction with previously mentioned Dunta Robinson. Samuel is expected to play on the outside while Robinson moves to the slot in nickel situations. That gives the Falcons a potentially potent trio of corners along with Brent Grimes also working into the unit. If all three players can perform up to their talent level, the Falcons could potentially field the league’s three best corners giving them a clear edge when it comes to lining up against the potent spread passing attacks that are numerous in the league today.

Samuel is considered one of the league’s premier corners. And while the Falcons have gotten excellent production from Brent Grimes the past two years, Samuel’s play has been at a higher level. Samuel is essentially a better version of Grimes. Like Grimes, he doesn’t have great size, and is not the most physical player. He has been criticized in the past for being too reluctant to contribute in run support. But where Samuel more than makes up for it is his ability to make plays on the pass and help tilt the field defensively.

According to Pro Football Focus, over the past two seasons Samuel has only allowed 47.1% completions on passes targeted against him, a mark that is sixth among corners. Grimes is not far behind with a completion rate of 48.6%, a mark ranked eighth in the league. But unlike Grimes, Samuel has been one of the least targeted corners in that span, only ranking behind Nnamdi Asomugha in terms of how many times he is thrown at per snap in coverage. Quarterbacks tend to avoid Samuel because they fear his playmaking ability.

Samuel has twice led the league in interceptions over the past six seasons, and has the most total interceptions in the league in that span, with a total of 39, an average of over six per season. Samuel likes to bait quarterbacks into throwing his way, then break on the ball to either pick it off or break up the pass. As mentioned before, most quarterbacks have learned the lesson and tend to avoid Samuel altogether. That trend is expected to continue in Atlanta, which will open more opportunities for a player like Grimes to get more action on the opposite side of the field. Grimes went from one of the league’s most targeted players in the league in 2010 to one of its least in 2011, mainly because passers feared his playmaking skills (5 picks in 2010) too. With Samuel doing his thing, it should give Grimes more opportunities to make big plays.

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2012 Key Player: Dunta Robinson

June 1st, 2012 Comments off
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Dunta Robinson

Robinson’s performance in 2012 will be counted on as being one of the Falcons’ keys for success. Like his defensive counterpart Ray Edwards, Robinson’s 2011 season was disappointing. Robinson did have his positive moments, but too often last year they seemed to be weighed down by negative ones.

With the team’s addition of Asante Samuel, expectations are high for the Falcons secondary this year. With that addition and the team placing the franchise tag on Brent Grimes, Robinson is largely a forgotten man in the defensive backfield. Robinson is expected to move inside in nickel situations, a role he played with the Houston Texans prior to coming to Atlanta. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will be looking to take advantage of having three skilled starting corners on the field to potentially give the Falcons a stronger pass defense.

But much of that rests on exactly how well Robinson plays on the inside. The Falcons nickel corner spot has been a problem area for the team throughout Mike Smith’s tenure. In 2008, Chevis Jackson played the role fairly well. But in 2009, he took a major step back and the team was forced to sign and plug in Brian Williams. Williams got hurt early on, and Jackson resumed his mediocrity for the remainder of the season. In 2010, the team signed Robinson and hoped that Chris Owens’ move inside would fix the problem. That did not prove to be the case, and the team inserted Williams once again, who was middling. Last summer, Owens and now Dominique Franks vied for the position. But both struggled in camp, and the team then signed Kelvin Hayden. Hayden was an improvement, but still was nothing special in the role. He then went down with injury midway through the season, and the team was forced to turn to Franks, who also looked miscast in the role.

If Robinson can step up and give the team strong production in the slot, then it will be a huge boost to the Falcons defense. Over the years, the Falcons have struggled to cover the middle of the field due to coverage issues at nickel corner, linebacker, and safety. If Robinson can pull his weight, that’s one less issue the Falcons will have to try and solve.

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Robinson restructures, saves Falcons $1.75M

March 9th, 2012 Comments off

Pat Yasinskas of ESPN reports that cornerback Dunta Robinson agreed to restructure his contract, which resulted in 2012 cap savings of $1.75 million. Robinson opted to waive a $3 million option bonus that was due next week. He also lowed his base salary by $1 million. Robinson’s new 2012 base salary of $5 million is now fully guaranteed. His base salaries in 2013 and 2014 increase by $1 million each year (up to $8 and $10 million respectively), and his 2015 base salary increases by $2 million to $11.5 million.

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Cap casualties could help Falcons

February 24th, 2012 Comments off
ICON SMI

Marcus McNeill

Every year just before the start of free agency, you have a number of veteran players get cut by their respective teams because they are either too old, too hurt, or too expensive to keep. These players are often labeled cap casualties, and can supplement the normal unrestricted free agent pool that we see every March.

The Falcons will have their own players that could be dumped in this fashion. Michael Turner, Ovie Mughelli, Sam Baker, Peria Jerry, and Dunta Robinson are all players that are under contract and the topic has at least been broached that they have seen their last games as Falcons. In all likelihood the Falcons will keep most if not all of those players simply because they don’t need the cap space as reports indicate roughly $30 million available to the Falcons. And for those that are underachieving such as Baker, Jerry, and Robinson, there is some hope that the changes in the coaching staff can breath new life into their careers in Atlanta.

Here are some names that have been bandied about in recent weeks as potential cap cuts from other teams that could at least be interesting to the Falcons. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of players that could be cut, but just some more of the prominent names and fits I could find. A hat tip goes to Jason La Canfora of NFL.com and Brian McIntyre of Football Outsiders that were my primary sources.

Running Back

The Falcons appear intent on keeping Michael Turner, so this doesn’t appear to be an area that they will likely address. But if the Falcons were to part ways with Turner and look for a veteran physical back to team with Jacquizz Rodgers, Brandon Jacobs (Giants) could be a possibility. Jacobs at this point in his career is a part-time player, but as he showed against the Falcons in the playoffs and down the stretch, he can be very effective in that role.

Wide Receiver

If you could rewind five years, this list would feature some of the league’s top wide receivers with Hines Ward (Steelers), Chad Ochocinco (Patriots), Lee Evans (Ravens), and Donald Driver (Packers) all being potentially on the chopping block this off-season. The Falcons have already been linked to Ward by some outlets, but he is a shell of his former self. He along with Driver could make effective veteran slot options if the Falcons were to lose Harry Douglas via free agency, but neither offer as much value as Douglas does at these points in their careers. Ochocinco and Evans have a bit more left in the tank, and could definitely help the Falcons add a third wideout that can get vertical. Evan was supposed to serve that same role with the Ravens last year, but only caught 4 passes in 9 games. Ochocinco couldn’t handle the complex Patriots offense (15 catches), but he still has enough skill to be a starter on some team in this league. And playing in a decidedly less complex offense like the one likely to be employed in Atlanta could help him improve his production.

Tight End

Dirk Koetter’s offense makes ample use of the H-back position, a role that would likely be currently filled by Michael Palmer. But the Falcons could potentially upgrade that spot by going after one of these names in Chris Cooley (Redskins), Dallas Clark (Colts), or Kellen Winslow (Buccaneers). Cooley and Winslow are both dealing with knee injuries that could definitely limit their effectiveness. Clark was practically a no-show for much of the Colts season with the loss of Peyton Manning. Cooley and Clark could work very well in an H-back role, being split out in space much like a slot receiver. Winslow if he can rebound potentially offers the team an heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez, who is expected to retire after this season.

Offensive Tackle

The Falcons have already been linked to Marcus McNeill, who could be cut by the Chargers due to lingering back and neck problems. Injury concerns and age will also likely cause the Packers to cut Chad Clifton as well. While McNeill will only be 28, his injuries probably make his body seem closer that of the 35-year old Clifton. Clifton is not a long-term fix, but as a one-year solution even if he only played half the season would be 8 better games than what the Falcons have gotten out of the position in recent years. Also in the mix could be Jason Smith, who has disappointed in St. Louis, but might still be a salvageable talent. Right tackles Jammal Brown (Redskins) and Winston Justice (Eagles) might also be cut this off-season due to making more money than their production merits. Brown was once a solid left tackle for the Saints, before injuries have sapped him the past few years.

Offensive Guard

Steve Hutchinson (Vikings), Eric Steinbach (Browns), and Chris Kemoeatu (Steelers) all could be cut. All three are left guards, but could offer a quick fix at the right guard position for the Falcons. Hutchinson was the top guard in the league for years, but at age 34 might only have another year left in the tank. Kemoeatu could offer a beefy run blocker, but struggled through this past year with a bum knee and penalties. Steinbach missed all of this past year with a back injury, which never bodes well for offensive linemen.

Defensive End

While it seems doubtful, the Colts could part ways with Dwight Freeney. If so, Freeney still offers a lot of value as a pass rusher. But if the Falcons are content to let John Abraham walk via free agency, replacing him with a 32-year old Freeney would not be a significant infusion of youth. Aaron Kampman has been injured a lot in Jacksonville, but could provide a veteran presence to the rotation if the Falcons were to lose Abraham and potentially Kroy Biermann as well. Darryl Tapp (Eagles) is a good run defender and decent pass rusher that can be an effective starter if need be, but ideally is a No. 3 end on most teams.

Defensive Tackle

It doesn’t seem like the Lions will part ways with 31-year old Corey Williams, but it’s been rumored. He would be a good pickup to the Falcons rotation, as he’s shined over the years as a situational rusher on third downs. Tommy Kelly (Raiders) is the same age and has been a solid pass rusher over the years (14.5 sacks combined the past two years) that could be a really good asset in nickel situations for the Falcons. His teammate John Henderson could beef up the rotation as a stout run defender. He’s on his last legs, but could potentially provide more value as a run defender on early downs, which could allow a young guy like Corey Peters to do what he does best: rush the quarterback.

Linebacker

The Panthers might part ways with Thomas Davis, who is coming off three ACL tears. If he manages to even play in 2012, it might be unprecedented achievement. But Davis offers much of what this team needs at the linebacker position, which is someone that can help combat the quality tight ends in the league, and in this division. The Panthers were the league’s worst team with defending the tight end in 2011, and a big reason was the absence of Davis. Gary Brackett (Colts) might be cut if the Colts do intend to employ a different scheme. He would be a nice pickup for the Falcons if they lose Curtis Lofton in the middle.

Defensive Back

A number of veterans are likely to get cut here. Domonique Foxworth (Ravens) is a former Falcon that has struggled to stay healthy in Baltimore, but is only 28 and still might have some years left ahead of him. Ron Bartell (Rams) offers that big, physical corner that Mike Nolan’s defenses tend to prefer but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy. Shawntae Spencer (49ers) played under Nolan in San Francisco, and he along with Terence Newman (Cowboys) and Marcus Trufant (Seahawks) are veterans that could help out at nickel. But it remains to be seen if any of those guys would be better options for the Falcons than just re-signing a player like Kelvin Hayden. Cedric Griffin (Vikings) is fast and physical and could be a nice pickup.

As for safeties, Michael Huff (Raiders) is a former teammate of Griffin’s at Texas, that also brings a lot of speed and athletic ability to that position. He could be a nice pickup as a replacement and potential upgrade over Thomas DeCoud at free safety.

It’s also worth mentioning that while they aren’t expected to be cut, cornerback Asante Samuel (Eagles) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (Giants) appear headed for the trading block. Considering the Falcons have a finite amount of draft picks, it’s doubtful they would get heavily involved in courting either, particularly Samuel. The Falcons defense prides itself on being physical, and Samuel is anything but that as a cornerback. But he is still one of the premier ball-hawks in the league, and coupling him with a successfully re-signed Brent Grimes could be a potent mix. Umenyiora might be a bit more up the Falcons alley. He’s 30, which makes him a few years younger than either Freeney or Abraham and thus probably has a bit more left in the tank. The issue with him is whether he can give the Falcons a full slate of games. He missed 7 games this past year with injury. Also, Osi isn’t exactly known for his ability to defend the run. The same could have been said for John Abraham prior to joining the Falcons, and he improved, so that might not be as big an obstacle as initially perceived.

Free Agent Focus: Cornerback

February 14th, 2012 Comments off

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Brent Grimes

This position is one of their biggest question marks entering the off-season. The Falcons will be in a position where the decisions they make here could really make or break their defensive success for years to come.

That decision is centered on whether they bring back Brent Grimes or opt to let him walk via free agency. Grimes is one of the few impact defenders on that side of the ball and based off that fact alone it should be a no-brainer to keep him. But the question isn’t that simple, as the factor of money plays a huge part in Grimes’ future in Atlanta.

Two years ago, the Falcons made Dunta Robinson one of the league’s highest paid corners by giving him a deal that averages $9.5 million a year and included $22.5 million in guaranteed money. That contract paid Robinson over $30 million in the first three years of his contract, paying him more money than what the Falcons gave to their top wideout Roddy White the previous summer.

Robinson was essentially paid to be a premier corner, the caliber of player that could take on the league’s best receivers, and not only contain them but potentially shut them down. But what has occurred in the time since is that Grimes has developed into that player. That became very obvious when he transformed into “Optimus Grimes” and contained the league’s premier receiver in Week 7′s win over Detroit.

So now the Falcons have a potential dilemma on their hands. If any player on this roster deserves to make Robinson’s salary, it is Grimes. But the Falcons don’t seem inclined to part ways with Robinson, thanks in large part to the minimal savings it would net towards this year’s salary cap. So the Falcons are essentially having to ask themselves the question: Can they afford to pay two guys that type of money?

And whether that answer is yes or no, will reflect whether or not Grimes is a Falcon in 2012.

And if the answer is no, then the Falcons defense could be in trouble. While Dominique Franks had his moments late in the season as an injury replacement for Grimes, he is still a very far cry from providing the caliber of skills that Grimes has over the past two years. And thus the Falcons are going to need to find more help at this position if they lose Grimes.

And if the Falcons are unwilling to pay a high premium for Grimes, it’s unlikely that they are going to get into bidding wars for the other top free agent corners on the market that include Cortland Finnegan, Carlos Rogers, Brandon Carr, Tracy Porter, and Terrell Thomas.

Instead, the Falcons will likely have to look at some bargain players. The chances that Kelvin Hayden returns will probably increase if Grimes departs. Players such as Kelly Jennings, Richard Marshall, Rashean Mathis, Jason Allen, and Will Allen are all available free agents that have past experience with members of this coaching staff. With the exception of Marshall, who is only 27, all of those guys are older veterans that can at least provide the team with a decent insurance policy in case Franks or Chris Owens aren’t ready to be the starter. But all would be short-term stopgaps at best, essentially no different than the team’s decision to sign Brian Williams a few years back.

Detroit’s Eric Wright, New York’s Aaron Ross, and Chicago’s Zack Bowman might also be worthwhile targets that will likely be allowed to test their markets by their respective teams.

Either way, it appears clear that the best option available remains Grimes. And while he could be one of the more expensive options, he’s a known commodity. But new DC Mike Nolan has generally shown a preference for bigger, more physical corners than Grimes, and thus might influence their decision to pass on keeping him under the expectation that he won’t be as good going forward in Nolan’s scheme as he has been in recent years under Brian VanGorder.

If the Falcons were to retain Grimes, then there would be little issue at this position. They could continue with Grimes and Robinson as the starters, and continue to develop Franks as the nickel corner with the hope that in the future he could develop into a capable starter. Re-signing Grimes makes things a lot easier on the team.

If not, then they will likely be looking for a stopgap for a year or so in the hopes that Franks takes a huge leap forward, Robinson starts to play up to his price tag, and/or buying them a year in the hopes that they can use a top pick on a corner in the 2013 draft. It’s a huge decision, and it really could color the outlook of this defense for years to come. If they keep Grimes, they should be fairly confident that it will stabilize the secondary for years to come, an area that has been a major weakness for the Falcons over the years. If not, then they are gambling that current players on their roster will step as well as hoping that they can find that stabilizing piece in future off-seasons.

As far as I see it, why roll the dice?

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 13 “Hue Jackson Salad”

January 15th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I are back to recap the big coaching changes that have already occurred in this early 2012 off-season, and discuss our thoughts on Mike Mularkey, Brian VanGorder, and the many candidates that could potentially replace them. We also discuss whether or not the Falcons disappointing finish in 2011 rests on the shoulders of the coordinators, or more on those of the head coach. We argue whether or not these changes on the coaching staff can lead to dramatic upswing in the team’s fortunes in 2012. We also break down which Falcons free agents we believe will stay or go, and I go on a heated rant about the rumors surrounding Brent Grimes future in Atlanta. We both talk about potential trades and whether Roddy White and Michael Turner have played their last games in Falcon uniforms. Ryan runs down his free agency and draft day wishlists, and to finish we each share what teams if any we are rooting for in the rest of playoffs.

Ep. 13: Hue Jackson Salad [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 32 minutes

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by on gamedays to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Year-End Superlatives: Most Disappointing Player

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

At midseason, the pick was Matt Ryan due to some inconsistent play during September coupled with high expectations going into the season. But now, a new winner has clearly emerged.

That player is none other than Ray Edwards, who I discussed briefly when talking about the team’s top newcomers before. But Edwards was a major disappointment, considering the Falcons brought him in to improve their pass rush. And while the Falcons pass rush did improve overall, it was hard to tell just by looking at Edwards.

When you examine the fact that Edwards played twice as many snaps as Jamaal Anderson did last year in terms of plays where he was asked to rush the passer, yet generated the same number of hits and pressures is very telling. Sure, Edwards wound up with 3.5 more sacks, but if you really go back and look at all of those sacks, they become a lot less impressive.

In all of the cases of his sacks, they came on plays were a teammate of his was able to get pressure as well and essentially flush the QB into Edwards waiting arms.  Against Green Bay, his first sack of the year was the result of Aaron Rodgers spinning out of the grasp of Vance Walker into Edwards waiting arms. He had a sack in each of the Panthers games, and in one it came as a result from he, Babineaux, and Abraham all meeting Cam Newton practically at the same time. Edwards only wound up with the sack because it was to his side of the pocket where Newton slid to avoid the hits from Babineaux and Abraham off his backside. In the other Panther game, Edwards got backside pressure off the edge, but Babineaux got interior pressure, and with Babs in his face, Newton fled deeper in the pocket into the arms of Edwards. And then his half-sack against the Jaguars was shared with Abraham, because Abraham knocked Gabbert into Edward’s arms.

Now if you want to make the case that because the team’s overall pass rush improved, that Edwards presence and value was to help free up his teammates, then I will certainly buy that argument. And I will also buy that there were perhaps instances where teammates were assisted by Edwards in getting their own sacks just like he was by them.

But the fact still remains that the difference between Edwards and Anderson was fairly marginal, and that’s not at all what the Falcons were expecting nor paid for. Here’s hoping that Edwards is next year’s pick for Most Improved Player.

And just for the sake of argument, I would have also considered Sam Baker and Dunta Robinson. But in Baker’s case, he wasn’t particularly good in 2010, and many folks wanted him to be benched then. So the fact that he was benched this year in the eyes of many was just long overdue. And Robinson had enough good moments down the stretch to really keep him totally out of the doghouse.

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Falcons Defensive Highlight of the Year

December 31st, 2011 Comments off
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Peters gives the stiff arm

Defensive highlights usually don’t get quite as much pub as the offensive ones. But Falcons defenders have made their share of big plays. And it was hard choosing which one was the best of the year.

Kroy Biermann’s pick six in Week 1 was a very impressive play, but probably doesn’t seem as great since it was in a one-sided loss. Ray Edwards fumble recovery the following week against the Eagles probably would get more points if he had taken it the distance for a score. Corey Peters did take John Abraham’s sack-strip of Blaine Gabbert vs. Jacksonville all the way to the house, but that wasn’t his most impressive play of the year.

So in the end, it has to go to Peters for his one-handed interception against the Panthers which gave the Falcons the ball back late in that game, and a few plays later they sealed the victory.

Other plays that get honorable mention: