The NFL is changing in a big way. Almost every team has a similar equation when it comes to scheme's, player management, financial planning, and the list goes on. What is the big trend these days is the high powered offense. Our beloved Atlanta Falcons are one of the leading teams and prime examples. Just like evolution in nature the evolution in the NFL is ever present and nonstop. Thus the high powered offense is bringing some very interesting changes on the other side of the football.
The NFL defense has seen some scary opponents in recent years and has taken big measures to compensate. Our Falcons in the recent past seemed to be one of the dinosaurs of the NFL on that side of the ball. The front office decided to change and made it apparent the defensive coordinator had to go. In the end we landed one of the arguable best defensive minds in the league today. We all knew there would be change and sure enough there was.
Mike Nolan brought not only a more player friendly coaching style but also a drastic change to scheme and player assignments. The team went from a heavy 4-3 base to a more hybrid scheme doing most of its work out of the nickle. This hybridization of the defense was run with mostly players from the old 4-3 base defense we had for years. After an agonizingly close call with the big game this last season the team has made some fairly big moves.
To speed things along I will say that this whole fanpost was spawned out of the research I was doing for our newly acquired draft picks this year. Upon this research I had a thought about some of the analysis I have seen on ESPN, NFL Network, and various websites across the vast internet *cough* TheFalcoholic*cough*. Fairly quickly after I started the research I started looking at the reason and titles for some of the newer hybrid players coming into the NFL. This is one article I found while looking at safety/linebacker hybrid, http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8251550/tyrann-mathieu-demarcus-ware-movement-hybrid-defenders-college-football-nfl. I know some people will cringe at the name Tyrann Mathieu but if you are interested in reading a little something about how NFL teams are using some of these new hybrid players this is one of the better articles I have come across. Now what does this have to do with the title and what I wrote above? Be patient, daang, I'm getting there.
With the Falcons first two picks in the 2013 NFL draft the team was obviously trying to stay competitive with any pass happy offense taking two cornerbacks in round one and two. After that it looked like it was trying to pick either pass rushers or run stoppers. I think its more complicated than that. The player that stood out to me was, crazy as it is, the 7th round pick Mr. Zeke Motta. He is a 6' 2" 215 lbs. safety that has a knack for making solid tackles. It may be a stretch but at 215 lbs. he is pretty much a prototypical size for a safety maybe a little bigger than usual, but he sure plays like a linebacker when you watch his tape. He hits hard and I can easily see him being utilized as a linebacker who can cover the nickel wide receiver or from the same stance and field position be a blitzing safety. This new hybrid position has become known as the "Star" position or in South Carolina University it is the "Spur". Also Stansly Maponga is our new 6' 2" 256 lbs. defensive end that can rush the passer. Most people see this as our attempt at bolstering our 4-3 or Big Nickle packages pass rush from the edges. To me his size and speed means veratility and he could be our answer to the new "Elephant" or "Leo" position. This position could also be filled by Biermann who has already proven to be a jack-of-all-trades defensive end but only time will tell if he can polish off the pass rushing abilities. Even Robert Alford looks to be at least a possibility to play in the same role as Tyrann Mathieu played for LSU, which was also referred to as the "Star" position but used a fast, instinctive cornerback to make plays instead of a hybrid linebacker/safety. Nolan has a lot of new tools and he has already enacted the most vital piece, the Big Nickle. The article, I tried to link in this fanpost, and many others rave about its versatility against the run and pass and how many of these new hybrid positions can be fielded out of it.
Before the beginning of the draft I think we all were wondering what was in store. It was almost a guarantee that defense was going to be a big factor but who and what positions were all up in the air. Today we see that even though we didn't get that future Lawrence Taylor or maybe the young version of Osi Umenyiora even. Instead what we got was two cornerbacks and a bunch of okay ends and safeties, but maybe that's all we needed to take the next step.