The Falcons have taken an approach to solving their defensive end woes that can be boiled down, seasoned with a little salt and served in the following format:
- Bring aboard some veterans
- Spend low round draft picks on pass rushers
- Hope with all your might
This approach has been largely ineffective over the last five seasons, as the Falcons have mostly put forth a middling pass rush with flashes of something better. This season, the Falcons have continued to roll out that approach, with a slight difference. Besides Osi Umenyiora, the Falcons don't have a single flashy, veteran pass rusher on this roster, and Osi's only signed for two seasons.
The Falcons have put themselves in a position, finally, where they must develop their young pass rushers to survive. Mike Nolan's defense will ease the burden on the defensive ends by dialing up more linebacker rushes, getting cornerbacks involved and prizing pass rushing in the middle of the line, but it's not like the need for quality defensive ends who can get after the quarterback will have gone away. For the team to thrive in the long-term, they're going to need the young guys.
That means 2013 is a key year for Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi. If the Falcons want to field a halfway decent defense a couple of years from now, at least one of those guys has to develop into a starting-caliber player, and it would be much better if it was two. While I'm focused specifically on the pass rush, it would be nice to generate a complete player.
Look for the Falcons to expend a lot of time and effort at getting Goodman and Maponga in particular developed quickly and contributing, with an eye on learning what they have for the future. They'll be mostly role players and part-timers in year one, but it might not be long before one of them seizes a starting job.
Your thoughts on the development of young defensive ends?