Barely over a month ago, Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi told ESPN's Vaughn McClure that he believed he earned more chances to make a play. He has since played only 57 out of 343 defensive snaps. After earning some fantastic pass rush grades from Pro Football Focus in midseason, he has played under 17% of the time.
Mike Nolan has given an unsettling number of snaps to struggling veterans, many on the wrong side of 30. The frustration is mounting, even with Massaquoi himself. Vaughn McClure, again, spoke to the underused pass rusher. Really, read Vaughn's article, he does great work.
Massaquoi really does not sound happy, and all signs point to Nolan as the likely source for his unhappiness.
"I mean, Coach Nolan has been in the game a long time: Whatever plan he has, regardless of if it's right or wrong, this is who I’m following through the season, from a defensive standpoint," Massaquoi said. "Do I think sometimes what I can do may get overlooked? That’s a possibility. Do I think I can contribute more? Yes. Is that my decision? No. Because it’s not my decision, all I can do is continue to be the best team player as possible and continue to support the 11 players that are out there on defense."
Massaquoi said he is fully healthy and had strong practices before Monday Night's game against the Green Bay Packers. He played seven snaps and sounds as confused as the rest of Falcon nation.
"Should I have gotten more snaps? Absolutely. Was that my call? No. Did we almost still win the game? Yes."
Not bad, I think every player thinks they deserve more snaps. However, Massaquoi is not going to have a breakout season riding the bench while the Falcons produce only 15 sacks in 13 games, tied for last the in the league.
"I don’t think it was a lot of pressure on me coming into this season," Massaquoi said. "I had the same expectations of myself. But all the games that I get over 40 snaps, I make sacks and tackles. Throughout the course of this season, I haven’t reached 40 snaps (consistently); just in some games -- Chicago (43 snaps), Ravens (51). Other than that, I really haven’t been given the pass-rush opportunities to go out there and execute my talents."
Is Mike Nolan again forgetting to play Massaquoi? Based on player personnel, it does not make a lot of sense. Kroy Biermann has always been a guy who plays his best on fewer snaps, Osi Umenyiora is done, and Jonathan Babineaux still is not a 4-3 defensive end.
Yet Nolan refuses to change the lineup, continuing to give underperforming veterans the nod over young, developing talent, such as Massaquoi. When many thought changes would come after the bye week, Nolan doubled down on his ineffective scheme and even more ineffective lineup.
With the Falcons offense giving the team a potential playoff berth, the team may need some defensive changes to make sure they are not "one and done" yet another year. That is, if any of the coaches are trying to keep their job.