There's a battle for snaps on, and it isn't based on the best slam poetry.
The Falcons enjoy terrific depth at defensive tackle, as it stands today. Jonathan Babineaux is quietly one of the league's best interior lineman, while Corey Peters proved to be a stalwart against the run last year. Add a talented if unproven Peria Jerry, a solid Vance Walker and potentially an enormous Trey Lewis, and it's deeper than the Atlantic there.
But there's still a position battle of sorts going on. With everyone in sight praising Jerry during camp, you can bet your bottom dollar that he's gunning for a bigger share of the snaps in 2011. Those would seem likely to come at the expense of Peters, who is the run-stopping yin to Jerry's pass-rushing yang.
After the jump, I'll break down this battle in a little more detail.
A year ago, Corey Peters was the "surprise pick that makes you say 'holy frick!'" I declared that in my draft pick profile of Peters, who was a stunner in the third round. I came around on him pretty quickly, saying that I appreciated his ability to get into the backfield.
Of course, Peters turned out to be another genius pick for the Falcons, though not for the reasons I envisioned. Not the slashing type that Jerry is supposed to be, he's more of a Toto type. Peters was incredibly stout against the run, piling up 33 tackles at the point of attack to go with one sack. With Jerry not back to full strength, he basically played starter's snaps and acquitted himself very well.
So we entered this season with Peters' role intact. He'd continue to stop the run and get major snaps even on passing downs, thanks to a noticeable improvement in his pass rushing. And he would share snaps with Jerry, of course, because Jerry is the former first round pick with so much talent.
The injury clouds the picture a little bit, but not much. Jerry will get more of a chance to show his ability with CP out against the Jaguars, but it doesn't sound like his injury is going to cost him the entire pre-season. As long as it doesn't, he's still a lock to maul running backs all season long.
Peters will still be in on 20-30 snaps a game. He's got the makings of a very good starting defensive tackle, and the Falcons won't stunt his growth. However...
Jerry's been the darling of camp. You would be hard pressed to find a pundit who, at the mention of his name, would fail to jump up and slaver at his explosiveness. Which, now that I've written it, sounds really wrong.
Nonetheless, Jerry has seemed poised to deliver on his considerable promise. Then the Dolphins game came along and Jerry did...well, not a lot. At one point, he seemed sort of unaware that he was supposed to be on the field.
So what are we to make of Jerry? It's way too early to tell. The coaching staff says he's finally totally healthy and a plethora of reports have been extremely positive, so I have to take those into account. Then again, I want to see this famed talent with my own eyes.
In 2010, he did get two sacks playing portions of every game, so he's got some promise there. Yet his production up to this point hasn't given the coaching staff a reason to prioritize him over Peters, so I suspect they won't. If he's as good as everyone seems to think he'll be, though, he'll slice into CP's snaps before long.
That's a fancy way of saying expect the status quo, unless Jerry catches fire. Do you agree?