Straight from Mike Smith's mouth comes the news that Thomas Johnson is set to assume the starting role left by Peria Jerry's season-ending injury.
Because Smitty also committed to a rotation at defensive tackle, it's not like Johnson's going to be out there for every snap of a game. The Falcons also have Trey Lewis, rookie Vance Walker and defensive ends Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis, either of whom could move inside in a pinch. It's a rotation that should be able to approximate or exceed Jerry's production, but there's nobody there that figures to be as helpful in pass rushing situations, a major concern against the New England Patriots this week.
For his part, the more traditional run stopper knows he's bringing a little something different to bear than Jerry:
"It’s a blow ‘cause Peria brings something different than I bring to the team," he said. "He brings quickness and pass rush ability and speed. I’m more of a kind of power guy. It’s going to hurt us but we have other guys who can fill in and take over."
My best guess is that Johnson will alternate with either Davis or Anderson, depending on the situation. I think Lewis should get a shot because he still has intriguing talent, but he's never been healthy and I'm not sure where the coaching staff stands on the guy. Walker should get a few snaps in the rotation and could benefit hugely if he can play well, but he's buried for the moment and will have to work his way up.
The gist here, I think, is that while losing Jerry hurts quite a bit, it's not as doom and gloom as my initial reaction had it being. There's still depth here and Johnson could step up in a big way, so let's lend him our support and hope for the best. I'm still concerned about generating any kind of pass rush from that spot, though. Your thoughts?