Here at The Falcoholic, what we specialize in is analysis. We take the raw information provided by hard-working dude like D. Orlando Ledbetter and tell you what we think it means, which isn't always wrong. It's a tough job, gosh darnit, but we're here to do it.
It's not good.
A hat tip to DopeFalcons, who posted a FanShot to the report from my talented friend Jay Adams over at the Official Site. The news that Hayden has been placed on IR is not particularly surprising, at this point, given his extended absence. With the Falcons rapidly approaching the playoffs, they had to make this move in order to bring another healthy player on to the active roster.
The depth chart now shakes out a bit. Chris Owens and Dominique Franks will share nickel duties, while Darrin Walls will probably be up on game days from here on out as a special teamer and emergency cornerback play. Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson remain the two top players at the position.
It's too bad, because Hayden was a decent nickel guy and a nice veteran presence. He finishes the year with 27 tackles and two picks and acquitted himself fairly well back there early in the season. The fact that Dominique Franks and Chris Owens are coming on strong probably means he won't return in 2012.
This is the one that really hurts.
Peterson had filled in admirably for Stephen Nicholas this season. He has his limitations—despite one interception and another returned for a touchdown that was called back, he's not great in coverage—but he thumps in the run game and played as well this season as I've seen him manage in his Falcons career. The Falcons have had the luxury of a deep corps of linebackers this season, and that's primarily been because Mo Pete was available.
Now the Falcons are going to have to turn to Spencer Adkins and Akeem Dent, assuming they don't go out and sign a street free agent. Dent is a useful run-stopper, but he's still a rookie and his coverage skills may not even be up to Peterson's standards at this point. Adkins is a personal favorite because of his athleticism, but he's been a gameday inactive numerous times this season and remains a great unknown.
The Falcons need a healthy Nicholas and a dose of good luck to get through the weeks ahead without turning to the young guys.