D-Ends Playing with Something to Prove

D-Ends Playing with Something to Prove

Jay Adams

Published November 15, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Cliff Matthews. Jonathan Massaquoi. Lawrence Sidbury.

Players with something to prove.

The release earlier this week of defensive end Ray Edwards means that Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi and Lawrence Sidbury have a gigantic opportunity in front of them. An opportunity each of them has been waiting for.

While it appears Kroy Biermann will be getting the start in the vacant DE spot across from John Abraham, Matthews, Massaquoi and Sidbury will be vying for that all-important playing time, and it started Wednesday with the first practice of the week.

“I’m approaching this week just like I approach every week,” Matthews said. “Just continue to work hard in practice, trying to get better. Now that the opportunity is there, I’ve just got to go take advantage of it.”

That’s how his other two counterparts have approached this week, as well. Not much has changed — there’s just more of a payoff at the end of the week.

It’s unclear which of the three will get the most snaps come Sunday, but the opportunity is one Lawrence Sidbury has been waiting a while for.

Productive in his first three seasons with the Falcons, Sidbury has been a player that fans have had high expectations for. With five sacks in his career — four last year, which was good enough for second on the team — Sidbury has a bit of a chip on his shoulder to show that he can get the job done on a consistent basis.

“I’m just a competitor. It’s nothing personal,” he said. “I think that’s why we all play this game. Every time you go out, you have something to prove at practice and definitely in the games. It’s nothing personal against someone saying I have something to prove, but as a competitor, I want to be great. Everybody wants to be good and do their best.”

Expectations are also high for Matthews, a seventh-round selection by the Falcons in 2011. At 6-foot-4, 268 pounds, Matthews presents a sizable challenge for opposing tackles, but has the versatility to do the other things that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan asks — like dropping into coverage or acting as a 3-4 linebacker.

The wildcard in the mix is the rookie Massaquoi, who was active for the first time last week against the Saints and played five snaps on special teams.

One of the Falcons’ fifth-round selections in April, Massaquoi is another versatile option the Falcons could turn to. And the rookie is hungry.

“I’m going to come out and show that I’m worthy of the position, just like I have been doing,” Massaquoi said. “It just so happens that this week is my opportunity. They always say you’re one play away and this week, I am one play away. I got some reps in last week on punt return, so I got a taste of blood and now I’m ready to get after it.”

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