Falcons Mailbag: Defensively Focused

Falcons Mailbag: Defensively Focused

Jay Adams

Published August 26, 2013 at 2:52 PM

In this week’s mailbag, we focus a bit more on the defensive side of the ball while tackling the Falcons’ red zone efficiency during the preseason loss to the Titans to start things out:

Answer: Great question, Alex, and it allows me to bring up an important point about the preseason — specifically the third game of the exhibition slate. After the game, several Falcons I spoke to were very disappointed in the offense’s red zone effectiveness as the team settled for three field goals in three trips. While the consensus was that there’s still some kinks to work out, it’s important to remember several things about what we saw Saturday night against Tennessee: 1. While there was game-planning, it wasn’t anywhere near to the extent you’ll see in the regular season; 2. What you did see of the playbook Saturday was minuscule compared to what the team would show during the regular season; 3. Roddy White was missing due to injury, which has an impact on the offense. There’s no question — preseason, regular season or postseason — the Falcons want to score touchdowns instead of field goals when they march down the field, but those are just a couple of things that stand out to me that could help explain some of the things we saw Saturday. There’s no doubt that the team will be focused on making whatever adjustments need to be made during the next two weeks to get things squared away before the start of the regular season. See if Tony Gonzalez can cheer you up: “It is a dress rehearsal — we have to play better, we see some weaknesses that we have and we’ll improve on them and we’ll get them right. We have to, we have no choice — we’re too good of a football team. I know our guys take a lot of pride in what we do.”

Answer: I think Joplo Bartu has a good chance of making the active roster and playing a role this year. Starting? Possibly, but we have to remember that Kroy Biermann is in the mix at outside linebacker. What we saw during Saturday’s preseason game was Biermann and Sean Weatherspoon at outside linebacker and Akeem Dent in the middle to start out. Bartu came in for relief at times, so it’s possible we could see him as a situational backer. Since “starting” is such a loose term, I don’t want to go so far as to say he’ll be starting, but he’s shown that he can handle playing time when it’s given to him.

Answer: The majority of the ink, surprisingly enough, this preseason has gone to some of the undrafted rookies — Bartu, Paul Worrilow, Ryan Schraeder among them. I think all three, in some way, have put their stamp on the preseason to this point. If I’m forced to pick one, I’ll say Bartu simply because it’s not every day an undrafted rookie gets looks with the first-team as much as he has. As I mentioned in the previous answer, he looks like he’s got some real potential to make an impact during the regular season.

Answer: In previous years, this answer was simple. Mike Peterson was the emotional and vocal leader of the Falcons’ defense during his tenure with the team. Now that the team has moved on, it has a young core of players who have to embrace leadership positions. Right now, I think this is Weatherspoon’s defense. From the on-field performance to his vocal presence around the locker room, he seems to be the one standing out. But don’t discount defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who is clearly a player many on the defensive side look up to. He’s the longest tenured defensive Falcon and his experience is something younger players lean on. While not a vocal-type, Babineaux certainly leads by example. Lastly, Osi Umenyiora has definitely embraced a leadership role despite only being around for a few months so far. He’s always with young defensive linemen, answering their questions and talking about the defense. Between those three, the defense seems to be in good hands.

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