Falcons Flyover: March 28, 2013

Chris Graythen

This week we take a look at Atlanta's defensive ends.

As Osi Watch 2013 comes to an end, now is as good of a time as ever to examine the Falcons' defensive end situation.

Falcons Get Their Man

With the acquisition of Umenyiora, Mike Smith has his much-needed replacement for John Abraham. And with a Pro Bowl-caliber DE, Atlanta's front seven looks a heck of a lot better than it did a day ago.

By signing Umenyiora to a two-year contract, Thomas Dimitroff brings in a productive veteran on a deal that won't handcuff the team in the future. And by giving him just $5 million guaranteed, Atlanta gets its top-tier DE without breaking the bank -- leaving the team some wiggle room under the cap.

A Look at Osi's Numbers

While Umenyiora may not have put up eye-popping numbers last season, he's certainly had an illustrious career. Here's a few of his more impressive statistical achievements:

  • 224: Number of fumble return yards Umenyiora has racked up in his career, good enough to be No. 1 in that category among active players.
  • 3: Number of career touchdowns the defensive end has in the NFL.
  • 10: Number of forced fumbles Umenyiora was credited with in 2010 alone.
  • 75: Number of career sacks Umenyiora has racked up, which is ninth most in the NFL since 2003.

Do the Falcons Need More than Umenyiora?

All this said, Umenyiora won't be able to give Atlanta an acceptable pass rush on his own. Pat Yasinskas over at ESPN thinks the Falcons may need to make another addition on the D-line, but as long as Kroy Biermann continues to evolve, I think they'll be fine with who they have.

Unless an unexpected move takes place, the Falcons are going to need Biermann to take the next step in his career and blossom into a legitimate, productive starting DE. While his numbers last season were certainly respectable (four sacks, 31 tackles), Nolan is going to expect the Montana native to rush the passer on a more consistent basis and force opponents to key on him, rather than view him as a secondary threat.

It's unlikely that Umenyiora will be able to put up big numbers while constantly double-teamed. It'll be up to Biermann to open up the game for Osi and allow the former Giant to earn his paycheck.

Examining Potential Draft Options

With a tight budget and very few legitimate candidates on the open market, the Falcons would be bests suited to find that extra pass rusher via the draft. And with the 30th pick in the first round this year, Atlanta could bring in a player straight from college that could contribute right away. While many -- including myself -- believe that cornerback is a more pressing issue, it'll be hard for Dimitroff and Co. to pass on a DE if the right one falls into their laps.

"We always go in the draft being needs-based," Dimitroff said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the NFL scouting combine. "At (No.) 30 (in the first round), you are a little more apt to consider multiple positions than you are honed in on one."

One such option at 30 could be Damontre Moore out of Texas A&M. A player with experience at end and outside linebacker, Moore would be a good fit with Mike Nolan's brand of defense.

Looking beyond the first round, guys like Sam Montgomery, Corey Lemonier, Margus Hunt are among other players the Falcons may be targeting -- all capable of stepping in right away next fall and making a difference in the NFL.

"We are in a completely different place than we were five years ago," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We had a lot of areas that we had to address. This year, I don’t think we have as many as we did five years ago. But we are always trying to get better as a team."

Moving Down the Depth Chart: Jonathan Massaquoi

As we look beyond the starters at DE, one player that has a chance ot really make an impact next season is Jonathan Massaquoi. Moving into his second season in the NFL, the former fifth round draft choice out of Troy University should be ready for an increased role with the Falcons in 2013. With the departure of Lawrence Sidbury, Massaquoi will see a lot more snaps next year.

The 6’2, 270 pound end spent a year with the Falcons in 2012, watching and learning from one of the best–John Abraham–not to mention having some seasoned pros like Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury around to show him a thing or two. Now that Massaquoi has had a year to soak it all in and see what being a defensive lineman in the NFL is all about, it’s time for him to turn that upside into a glowing stat sheet.

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