When we last left off we covered the Falcons defensive tackles. Now it's time to take a look at one of the positions that has received the most scrutiny this off-season, the defensive ends.
The Falcons only had two DEs on last years roster who recorded sacks, John Abraham and Kroy Biermann. Abraham led the team and DEs in sacks with ten while Biermann was second with four. Abraham was a great player for the Falcons but it's pretty clear why the Falcons decided to go a different direction. Seven of Abraham's ten sacks came in the first seven games of the season, meaning he had just three sacks in the last eleven games of the season and none in the last six games (including two playoff games). That's a huge drop-off in production from your "go to" guy and the Falcons decided they needed to go in a different direction with their number one option. Abraham can still play but a more limited and defined role for him would make him more impactful for his next team.
Biermann had a nice season last year and actually led the DE position with tackles. Biermann is a good fit for Mike Nolan's defense and we should see him move around a bit on the line and in the front seven just as he did last year.
Taking over for Abraham will be Osi Umenyiora. Osi finished 2012 with six sacks which was second on the NY Giants behind Jason Pierre-Paul's 6.5. It was a down year overall for the entire Giants defensive line. Osi has been getting rave reviews from the likes of Sean Weatherspoon and UFDA Brandon Thurmond for his leadership off-the-field so it looks like Osi is refreshed and poised to have an impact for the Falcons.
The Falcons also added Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga in the NFL Draft. Both guys have potential to have an impact as early as this season in situational roles as compliments to Osi and Biermann.
Looking beyond those four, the Falcons also have Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi waiting in the wings. Matthews is a third year guy out of South Carolina who played in ten games last season with six tackles. Massaquoi is a second year player out of Troy who played in eight games with two tackles (both against the Panthers).
I think camp and pre-season will be a little more interesting than normal at this position as playing time is there to be had. With the addition of the two draft picks, the Falcons appear to have more depth at this position then they did last year but you never know how the draftees will perform early in their career (especially from where they were drafted). A guy to keep an eye on is Jonathan Massaquoi. This is just his second year but he really needs to break through this year and be a contributor unless he wants to be the next Lawrence Sidbury.
Defensive End is not a strength of this team but I think it has been slightly upgraded from last year, especially when you look at the lack of production that the position gave us last year down the stretch (no sacks in the post-season and only three sacks in the last six regular season games).
State of the Falcons