Enormous kudos to our own orang3b. It's his research that's making this post possible in the first place.
Basically, he counted snaps for every defender. There are limits to that, of course. You can't always see the secondary, and there are times when poor television angles obscure numbers. That needs to be acknowledged up front.
Still, these are about as close as we'll get to definitive, and they tell a very interesting story. After one game you can't ascertain any trends, but the snap counts may give us a clue of where the defense is heading. You'll see good omens for guys like Corey Peters, Kroy Biermann and Sean Weatherspoon. The crystal ball is a little cloudier for poor Stephen Nicholas, though.
Remember that in total, the Falcons were on the field for 60 defensive snaps. I bet you'll never guess one of the guys who survived all of them.
Hit the jump and discover a world of numbers unlike any you've seen before!
Kroy Biermann, 43: I knew Mike Smith had to be blustering when he talked about being unsure who was starting opposite John Abraham. Duff Man was on the field for 43 snaps, more than Jamaal Anderson by a wide margin, leaving Anderson with only 17 at defensive end. Biermann's simply the superior option outside, and the team is well aware of that.
Trey Lewis, 29: Defensive tackle is shaping up to be a true rotation. Vance Walker started for Peria Jerry but ended up with fewer snaps. Anderson picked up 11 snaps inside. The big winners Sunday against the Steelers were Lewis and Corey Peters, who we'll get to in a moment.
Lewis went from being a long shot to survive final cuts to leading all his DT comrades in snaps. He was a force through much of the first half, though as orang3b notes, he seemed to wear down in the second half. Coming off of a series of almost comically devastating injuries, it wouldn't surprise me if conditioning was an issue. Big Trey is here to stay, though.
Corey Peters, 28: Remember when we hated the Peters selection? Yeah, what a bunch of jerks.
What strikes me about Peters is how fluid he looks on the field. We already knew he was a smart guy and a guy who would come prepared to play, but grace and agility aren't two attributes you often grant to the lumbering behemoths who patrol the front four. Peters is a gifted athlete, period, and he earned these snaps by being very disruptive up front. I don't think Pork Chop is ready to start full-time or anything, but you can see where he's got potential to create some very big headaches for opposing offenses.
Curtis Lofton, 60: It's official: Lofton is so good you can't keep him off the field. Anyone attempting to do so may find themselves face down on the turf, blue lights bathing their face, hearing the wail of sirens and wondering just where their once promising lives went so wrong.
This isn't going to be a rare occurence. There's nobody behind Lofton who could be reasonably expected to play significant snaps, and he was utterly dominant for stretches against the Steelers. He'll probably finish the season with the most snaps out of any Falcon on the defensive side of the ball.
Sean Weatherspoon, 60: Yeah, and this guy wasn't locked in as a starter. Give me a break.
Spoon wasn't even close to dominant. Let's get that out of the way. He has some problems taking the correct angle, and he isn't always the wrap-up tackler we'd like him to be. But he held his own out there as a starter, and the Falcons rewarded him by letting him play every defensive snap. That's pretty incredible for a rookie in this system, and the team isn't going to back off doing this. Lofton and 'Spoon will be the fixtures.
Stephen Nicholas, 15: What a meteoric fall from grace for Nickels. orang3b only saw him come in for the three lineman, three linebacker, five defensive back nickel sets, and I barely recall seeing him at all. The Falcons are legitimately convinced that Mike Peterson (33 snaps) is a better option, at least against the Steelers' run-heavy offense, and so Nicholas got very little playing time.
Will that continue? Probably. He'll likely get closer to 33% of the snaps most weeks spelling Peterson or 'Spoon, but the team views him primarily as a passing down guy. Hopefully they're maximizing the team's strengths here.
We may have a little wonkiness here because these guys aren't in every frame, but the entire starting secondary played very close to the entire game. For a team that is heavily pushing rotations and spelling starters at every other position, this is borderline stunning.
This makes Robinson's failures look a little less glaring, considering how many plays he was involved in, and makes the other three look better. Coleman is primarily useful in run support and was regularly cheating up, but he had to have been active in coverage, too. I don't recall him embarrassing himself. With Brian Williams reasonably healthy, Coleman hurt and Chris Owens showing real talent, don't expect to see this happen every week.
Chris Owens, 27: Owens played primarily in the nickel, but he made the most of his 27 snaps by generally being a pain in the ass for the Steelers. Unless he starts, though, he's never going to see more than half the snaps in a given game. The Falcons don't spend any more than that in a nickel package.