FLOWERY BRANCH GA - JULY 30: Jonathan Babineaux #95 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during opening day of training camp on July 30 2010 at the Falcons Training Complex in Flowery Branch Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jonathan Babineaux has dominated at defensive tackle for so long that a year without that dominance seems awfully jarring.
It's not that the USS Babineaux was a bad player in 2011. Quite the contrary. It's just that missing three games, amassing your lowest tackle total of your career and only coming up with one sack can't be called an elite season, especially when you are Jon Babineaux.
In his best years, Babs is basically unstoppable. He's never had an overwhelming set of numbers at defensive tackle, but he's got a unique knack for getting into the backfield and being a disruptive force. His fingerprints are all over some of the team's best defensive plays since he was drafted, and he was quietly recognized as one of the better tackles in football. So what if he'll be 31 this season?
I think you'll be looking at a better year from Babs in 2012, which will help the rest of the line in turn. Part of that is a belief that his skills really haven't eroded all that much as he enters his 30's. I think you can draw a bright line between his injury and how long it took him to really get going in 2011, and the overall state of the line last year.
Why, if the Falcons might lose John Abraham, would Babs do better in 2012? Simply because I believe this will be a more aggressive scheme, one that will call for Babs to punch into the backfield the way he's so clearly accustomed to. Babs fared well in BVG's scheme in years past, but there was rarely a ton of time to rush the passer. That may change.
Also, Babineaux just has too much natural ability to be contained, assuming he's not entering a steep decline phase I'm not seeing. With the Falcons probably needing more of an interior rush with a little bit of a shaky situation at the ends, Babs will have to step up. I think he will.
Do you agree?