Now that we've covered defensive end—and given them a not-so-ringing endorsement for the season ahead—we must turn our gaze inward. Not to our souls, you understand, but to defensive tackles.
Even with the loss of Vance Walker, this part of the depth chart is in pretty decent shape. The Falcons have four tackles under contract and one who spent last year on the practice squad at this point, which gives them something less than legendary depth but plenty of players to work with.
The biggest question here, given Jonathan Babineaux's advancing age and Peria Jerry's general mediocrity, is whether the Falcons need to sink draft picks into the position to shore it up. The answer likely depends on a few of the players profiled here.
Let's break it down.
Starter: Jonathan Babineaux
2012 stats: 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 pass deflections, 1 interception
Babineaux is the best defensive tackle on the roster, more or less full stop.
As I noted the other day, Babs was second among all defensive tackles in tackles for loss last season. He may not be a huge asset against the run, but that kind of knack for penetrating into the backfield is not something common among defensive tackles, particularly on this roster. The fact that he can and did kick out to end means he has that much-beloved positional versatility, making him one of the more valuable pieces in Mike Nolan's defense.
The only problem with Babs? That would be his age. He'll be 32 in October, he's coming into his tenth NFL season and he's firmly on the wrong side of the age curve. If he can duplicate his 2012 performance or come close to it, though, he'll be as valuable and likely as underrated as ever.
Starter: Corey Peters
2012 stats: 15 tackles, 1 pass deflection
Peters was a pleasant surprise for the Falcons in 2010 and 2011. Drafted in the third round and widely mocked as a reach, Peters showed he can hold his own against the run, get into the backfield and even bat down a few balls at the line of scrimmage. He was a solid starter all the way around.
The injury in 2012 changed things a bit. When Peters finally did return after a lengthy absence, he looked rusty and out of sorts That's hardly something we can blame him for, but certainly it is more concerning that he wasn't able to get completely back to form. As long as he's healthy, though, there's no reason to believe Peters won't be a useful starter again for the Falcons.
If he can improve a little on his 2011 play, the Falcons have a strong set of starters.
Reserve: Peria Jerry
2012 stats: 14 tackles
The most hated man on the roster by many metrics, Jerry is the definitive first round bust of the Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff era. The fact that he's probably an average defensive tackle doesn't do anything to save him.
Jerry lacks the burst you want from a decent pass-rushing tackle. He's stout enough against the run, but not to the point where he'd be considered anywhere near elite. Thus, the best thing you can say about him is that he's been mediocre for years now, and it's hard to imagine that will change in 2013.
Jerry's role in 2013 will be as a backup who logs plenty of snaps, but doesn't have a huge on-the-field impact. That's just the way it is.
Reserve: Travian Robertson
Here's where we hit the upside. Robertson is a hulking behemoth the Falcons drafted because he offered a truly tantalizing amount of strength and athleticism for the position.
We don't know much about how Robertson will fare. It's clear he has the talent to at least offer help to this rotation, but it's going to depend heavily on how much use he gets and how much he's grown as a player since 2012.
Practice Squad: Micanor Regis
Regis is a bit of an intriguing player in his own right. In 2010 and 2011 for the Miami Hurricanes, he had a combined 14.5 tackles for loss, showing the ability to get into the backfield. At 6'3" and 305, he's an athletic player, and at 23, he's young enough to grow.
If the Falcons don't consider defensive tackle a priority in the draft, Regis could get a shot. He'll likely be a gameday inactive even if he does, but he merits watching.
I'm actually pretty content with the position. The Falcons could really use a space-clogging nose tackle type when they want to use 3-4 looks, and they could always use more pass rushers at the position. With Babs and Peters providing quality starting options and Robertson and possibly Regis offering some upside for this year and beyond, though, it's safe to say there are bigger positions of need for the season ahead.