Shaping Up The 2013 Falcons Defense

Hi guys, I have been reading the blog for a few years now and decided that I should go ahead and at least introduce myself. I'm a junior in college studying sports management with an interest in journalism, statistics, and fan experience at Ohio University. I'm from Atlanta and have been a diehard Braves/Falcons/Hawks/Thrashers fan from the start. I look forward to posting here and there and getting to know this community a little bit. Cheers to a Successful 2013 Falcons Draft Class!

Anyways, I have a theory about the sheer number of defensive backs and versatile defensive ends that it seems the Falcons might carry next season. I don't think Mike Nolan is going to coach a 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5, or anything exclusively ever with this team. He is doing what he believes can give us the highest variety of possible looks to continue to his best to give the Falcons the best answer to the ever-changing styles of offense in the NFL.

I decided to look up the Falcons individual player % of defensive snaps played numbers ( and see if I could make some conclusions about the type of personell he will need to run his system. I sorted all of the players into five position groups - defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, and safety. I listed the player's % of total Falcons defensive snaps played, games played, and % of snaps played in games played (typically the same, but higher for players who did not play all 16 games). I then projected the 2013 depth chart at each position and roughly looked at what % of snaps each Falcons defender will play in 2013. Here are some of the results (if anyone is interested, I've got an excel with all my data and if anyone wants a look I'd be glad to share).

Avg. # on Field in 2012 | Prj. # on Field in 2013 | # on Roster

Defensive Tackle: 2.30 | 1.95 | 4
Defensive End: 1.73 | 1.90 | 4-6
Linebacker: 2.28 | 2.25 | 4-5
Corner: 2.72 | 2.70 | 5
Safety: 1.99 | 2.20 | 4-6

A couple of observations about each position:

- Babineaux is the clear #1, while others rotate based on down and fitness
- Played a decent amount last year with 3 tackles on the field
- With no Vance Walker replacement, I'd imagine that fact plus 6 DE's on the roster means some of that PT goes to that position

- Osi/Biermann will each play about 2/3 of the snaps at DE if things go well, leaving the rest two four hungry youngsters
- Of course, Biermann's role isn't always as a clear DE and I believe Nolan thinks one of these young ends can add a similar dimension to their game

- Stevie Nicks and Spoon are almost always on the field together
- Dent plays about 50% of the snaps, almost always in likely run downs
- 4th LB is backup that barely plays and 5th is ST

- Two starting corners who play 85+% of snaps with a nickel that plays close to 2/3 of the time
- Franks and Owens last year as dime guys played about 20% of snaps last season

- Literally only two safeties ever on the field (either DeCoud/Hope or DeCoud/Moore) unless Julio was called upon to play the Finneran role
- I'm assuming Nolan is creating some hybrid OLB/S (Motta) rover type package to throw out there as well with potentially 6 safeties on the roster

As we started to see last year in Nolan's first season with the Falcons, it was hard to guess just exactly what the Falcons defense would look like both in terms of scheme and quality from week to week. After giving up nearly 250 yards a game through the air last year with Dunta Robinson often being asked to cover team's top receivers and no pass rush outside of John Abraham, clearly the head honchos in Flowery Branch saw the deep 2013 defensive class as an opportunity to overhaul the defense and give Nolan the weapons he needs to create a dynamite defense.

The sheer number of ends and defensive backs shows the team's impetus on becoming a more flexible and better pass-defending defense going forward. While the Falcons run defense is far from perfect, I think the team believes stopping the pass is going to be priority #1 on defense going forward. I find it interesting that the pure linebacker position is being squeezed in our system, as Nolan seems to prefer a wealth of options on the edge of the line or behind the linebackers in the secondary.

Personally, I find it hard to find too much fault with the Falcons' strategy so far this offseason. We have become a consistent playoff team with this regime, and I trust the Falcons' best minds to do what they believe is putting this team in the best position to win now and for years to come. So let's as fans just get excited to watch a 2013 Falcons defense that can continue to excite our fans and frustrate opponents. Let's cheer for five more Drew Brees interceptions and doing the same to Tom Brady at the Dome on my mom's birthday. I won't pretend to know how if Robert Alford was really worth a 2nd round pick and if passing on LBs such as Alec Ogletree and Arthur Brown will haunt us in five years. I'm just here to speculate a little, look up a few numbers, and see how it all plays out in the fall and winter.

I am nothing more than an interested fan with a decent knowledge of the team and some of the workings of how a football team is run. Hopefully, someone reads this and has an opinion or two, so I can see if anyone else is as crazy as Mike Nolan and I.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>