The Mike Smith praise train kept on rolling yesterday, when D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted the second half of a recent interview with the Atlanta Falcons head coach. That creates a bit of conflict for me, your humble Falcons blogger.
On one level, this is newsworthy. It's a good interview and Smith is covering a lot of ground with his answers, so I want to make sure I pass it along to you. On the other hand, it's early in the off-season and of course Smitty's going to say nice things about his players. We won't know for months whether he's right or not.
But given the grudging respect (or lack thereof) afforded to Peria Jerry around these parts, I thought it might be good to look at what Smith had to say about him. After the jump, I'll dive into the comments.
Here's what Smith thinks of Jerry, with DOL's questions included:
Q: Some folks on the blogs are starting to contend that Peria Jerry is a bust. What's his future?
A: As the season progressed, he became more productive. He was recovering from his knee just like [wide receiver] Harry Douglas. Even though guys have come back in that first year, they are not 100 percent until their second season.
We saw progress from Peria throughout the season. Peria was used basically as more of a situational player.
We feel that he'll continue to progress.
Q: Can he still be a disruptive force at defensive tackle?
A: Of course. There is no doubt. You saw that at the end of the season where he was penetrating and getting into the backfield and creating tackles for losses.
But sometimes there are things that don't show up in the stat book. Like, if he's being doubled-teamed or if he's forcing the ball to the bubble [an open area], where a guy has an opportunity to get off the block and go make the play.
Forgive the block of text, but I think that needs to be highlighted. I'm also guessing that DOL's been reading, since we've certainly had our share of lively discussions about whether Jerry is a bust here on the blog.
Maybe it makes me ridiculous, but I do find myself believing Smith here. Jerry is a big, heavy dude coming back from a significant knee injury. I don't think you saw him get reduced snaps in 2010 just because Corey Peters was good, although I think we were all very pleased with the rookie. I think the team wanted to bring him along slowly.
So what does that mean for 2011? It means that at minimum, Jerry's going to be counted on to contribute to the rotation at defensive tackle. If he can prove he's healthy, he's going to draw starting snaps alongside Jon Babineaux, because his potential as a pass rusher is higher than Peters, Vance Walker, Trey Lewis, et al. As you might be aware, the Falcons need to upgrade the pass rush in the same way that a Pinto owner needs a new car.
So I'll take Smith at his word right now and assume that Jerry's coming back healthy to a starting role. But I wouldn't totally count on it.