The Falcons are going to run plenty of plays out of the 3-4 in 2014, just in case you forgot. Yesterday, the Falcons allowed media in to observe the Falcons' second day of organized team activities. You'll find Jeanna's blow-by-blow roundup from yesterday right here, with all the D. Orlando Ledbetter video, Joe Hawley love and Prince Shembo talk you can handle.
What I'm chiefly interested in breaking out this morning is the following, from esteemed ESPN reporter Vaughn McClure. He was kind enough to give us our first look at a 3-4 set featuring the team's personnel.
1. When defensive coordinator Mike Nolan screamed out "base defense" midway through practice, the Falcons move into a 3-4 setup with Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai and Jonathan Babineaux up front, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu as the inside linebackers, and Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi rushing as outside linebackers.
So what to make of this? The answer, in May, is very little. It's incredibly important that I make that point.
Why? Chiefly because of injuries and rookies. The Falcons aren't going to slot any of their rookies into a "starting" front in OTAs, especially not this early, but Ra'Shede Hageman and Prince Shembo will be very much in the mix for significant snaps. The lineup you see here does not feature Corey Peters (out until the start of the season, potentially), Kroy Biermann (moving well but not back to full speed) and Sean Weatherspoon (still recovering, as well). I'm not saying all three of those guys would feature as true starters in a 3-4 front, but I'd wager at least two of them would be prominently in the mix.
I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a deeply intriguing front, nonetheless. You have a ton of size up front and insane athleticism behind those three players, with Maponga, Massaquoi, Worrilow and Bartu all offering real explosiveness. I know I seem to be driving the Worrilow train off the cliff, but if the Falcons like the improvement they've seen out of him, he makes a lot of sense here. I'd actually prefer Bartu outside, myself, but he's a rangy athlete who can move sideline-to-sideline when called upon. Mass has the potential to be one of the team's best pass rushers, and Maponga is a deeply intriguing unknown. If it shakes out this way because these guys have earned their roles, you're not going to hear me complain about that kind of youth and athleticism at linebacker.
I just wouldn't expect to see those seven guys out there on the first snap against the Saints this year, and I would take it with a grain of salt until we see how the Falcons mix it up with the returns of Biermann and 'Spoon, in particular.
What say you?