An Examination Of The Atlanta Falcon Snap Count Versus The Saints

Mike Smith won't challenge our analysis of the snap counts. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

You know who's the man? orang3b's the man.

Thanks to our resident ink-smudged stats miner, we once again have a full accounting of the defensive snaps our Falcons took against the New Orleans Saints. It's an eye-opening look at how the Falcons choose to deploy their personnel, and it tells you things about Peria Jerry you probably didn't want to know. Ever.

Keep in mind that the total number of snaps for the Falcons in this game was 56. A handful of players never came out of the game, while others came out for reasons of injury (Sean Weatherspoon, John Abraham). Others got in the game for extremely limited snaps, which at this point is probably a fair sign of what's to come for them.

Join us after the jump for a rich, velvety breakdown.

Defensive Line

File this in the Not Surprising drawer: Kroy Biermann and John Abraham got the majority of snaps outside at defensive end. Duff Man picked up 40 and Abe 41, despite a devastating eye poke that knocked him out for one play while he snapped his orbital socket back into place. Here's a breakdown of the rest:

Jamaal Anderson, 19 (15 at DE, 4 at DT): The use of JA98 continues to be one of my favorite subplots of the young season. His usage declined from exactly one snap from the Arizona game and two from the Pittsburgh game, so it looks like Anderson's carved himself out a little role in this defense. He rotates through DE on run situations and when Biermann needs a rest, rotates into DT a handful of times a game and rotates onto the bench for the rest of it. Did any of us hope for this sort of super reserve role when the Falcons drafted him eighth overall in 2007? Oh, hell no. Is he valuable? Oh, hell yes.

Jonathan Babineaux, 56: I love the USS Babineaux. He's incredibly underrated nationally given how nasty he is. He was a key in this one, playing every single snap and just battering the Saints offensive line. If you don't think he's playing 80% or more of the snaps every week, you're crazy.

You big crazy.

Corey Peters, 46: You have to give this kid props. He's now played the majority of snaps two out of three weeks, after evenly splitting time with Peria Jerry last week. More on Jerry in a minute.

I'm loving the 2010 draft so far because of guys like Sean Weatherspoon and Peters, who are playing so well so early in their rookie seasons that they've basically locked up starting jobs. This is a true rotation at DT and Peters can't possibly pull this many snaps each week, but don't bet against him playing better than 50% of the snaps week-in, week-out.

Peria Jerry, 1: Yes. One snap. According to orang3b:

Yes, the totals are listed right - Peria Jerry got ONE snap (he also picked up an offsides call, but that didn't count as an offical play).  It's not like the offsides put him in Mike Smith's doghouse or anything - his one snap came in the 3rd Quarter, and the penalty was with about 9 minutes left in the 4th Quarter.  He wasn't listed on the injury report at all, so I have no idea what the problem was this week.

If what D. Orlando Ledbetter  is robbling about over at the AJC is true, than Jerry may still be struggling to recover from his knee injury. If that's the case, he really shouldn't have been picking up 19 snaps against the Cardinals, but that whole situation remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. If Jerry's getting pushed out in favor of Peters—hell, Vance Walker got more snaps (4) than Jerry did—the Falcons may have to figure out a way to maximize his talents and get him on the field. Maybe he could kick outside occasionally, like a reverse Jamaal Anderson?

Way too early to tell, of course. Just some food for thought.

Linebackers

"The Police" never rest, and neither does Curtis Lofton. Our star middle linebacker didn't have his greatest game against the Saints, but he never came off the field. Good on him.

Sean Weatherspoon, 52: Aside from the cramps in overtime, 'Spoon never came off the field either. He's having a remarkable rookie season, and I hope he's healthy enough to play against the 49ers. Unfortunately, he didn't practice again Thursday.

Mike Peterson, 26: There's a pretty clear difference between Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas, who only got six snaps. Peterson plays primarily against the run and in the base 4-3 package, which the Falcons ran 46% of the time against the Saints, according to orang3b. When they plan for the pass and run a nickel package, in comes Nicholas. It's not a perfect arrangement, but it's the one that makes the most sense at the moment. Peterson's still getting way more snaps.

Defensive Backs

Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, and Brent Grimes played every single snap. Remember when DOL was predicting that Brian Williams would oust Grimes from the starting lineup? How quaint. Dunta Robinson also picked up all but one snap, with orang3b noting that he came off the field after getting toasted on the Devery Henderson drop. I feel light years more confident in our secondary this season.

Chris Owens, 30: It's pretty clear that Owens has locked down the nickel back spot, and he's playing with real gusto.

This kid just likes to hit people. He's solid in coverage, our most physical corner by a decent margin and someone who I believe will eventually force his way up the depth chart. For now, he's getting 20-30 snaps at the nickel per game and doing a great job with them.

Brian Williams, 1: If Williams was going to make the team, I envisioned him being used like this. Sparingly. As a veteran leader who isn't asked to do much, he's worth a roster spot this season. I just pray the secondary stays healthy and we don't have to find out how well he'd play with more time.

Discuss, and be sure to thank orang3b for all his work!

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