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Kroy Biermann: Time for a Change?

A closer look at the veteran and his role on the team.

Andy Lyons

It doesn't take much to figure out when the backlash against Kroy Biermann started to gain momentum. During a short segment of Hard Knocks while talking to the linebackers coach, Atlanta fans saw Biermann admit that he didn't yet trust his surgically repaired achilles, which was injured early during the 2013 season. It seemed to be a moment where the flames were fueled a bit brighter and his performance since then has not inspired confidence.

Local media has also been less than kind to Kroy, with some claiming that he's a coach favorite who is played in spite of his performance. Fans have latched onto the idea, with some even calling for the veteran to be cut outright. But is his performance really that poor, or is there more to the story?

How 2014 is going so far

For our purposes, we're going to use PFF numbers to make our evaluations. Let's take a look at how Kroy has been doing so far in 2014:

Game Snaps Overall Grade Run Defense Pass Rush
New Orleans 69/76 -1.6 +1.5 -2.3
Cincinatti 56/72 -3.6 -1.2 -0.6
Tampa Bay 39/60 -0.8 +0.8 -0.7
Totals 164 -6.0 +1.1 -3.6

If you're in the "get rid of Kroy" camp, these numbers probably don't surprise you. While he's been pretty good against the run, he's just not getting it done as a pass rusher. To that point, through 3 games, he's had 67 snaps as a pass rusher and has registered 0 sacks, 1 QB hit, and 4 QB hurries. By comparison, Jonathan Massaquoi and Stansly Maponga - through 3 games - have 46 snaps as pass rushers combined, with the majority of those coming in the Tampa Bay game.

It should be noted that Kroy's total snaps have declined each game while Massaquoi and Maponga have gotten more each game. Additionally, while Maponga plays the same position as Kroy - LOLB - Massaquoi is primarily used as a ROLB, so his snaps aren't necessarily being impacted by Kroy.

Performance from 2008 to 2013

Let's take a quick look at Kroy's performance over the years to see if there's a reason behind the coaching staff continuing to give him the majority of defensive snaps.

Year Overall Run Defense Pass Rush
2008 +3.0 -1.4 +3.7
2009 +6.9 +1.5 +3.1
2010 +4.8 -1.8 +8.2
2011 -16.7 -10.1 -5.0
2012 -6.1 +3.5 -9.3
2013 +0.1 +2.3 -0.7

As you can see, at one point, Kroy graded out strongly as a pass rusher, while his run defense has been hit and miss. But in 2011, his scores dipped considerably. Whether it was due to the signing of Ray Edwards (*shudder*) or some other factor, it's pretty clear that Kroy hasn't been able to get after the QB very well since the 2011 season.

But, these numbers also indicate that Kroy - at one point - was able to deliver. So, it's not unreasonable to think he might be able to do so again, but recent history suggests he's not done it a while - at least as a pass rusher.

What are the options

So, if Kroy isn't getting it done, what are the realistic options?

Well, let's first acknowledge that Kroy has done well in run defense not only this year, but for the past couple of years. So, the idea that Kroy doesn't have anything to offer is simply not true. You can argue that he doesn't offer much as a pass rusher - and the recent stats back that up - but he does have value.

But what of the pass rush? Well, for starters, guys like Massaquoi and Maponga should absolutely get more opportunities to go after the QB. Considering that both guys registered sacks against the Bucs, there's evidence that they have something to offer in that capacity. While neither is likely to be a major force as a pass rusher, if they can each contribute between 3-5 sacks, it will be something.

So where does that leave us with Biermann? Well, for starters, he's a free agent after this season - so those hoping to see him no longer in a Falcons uniform may get their wish after this season. Secondly, he still offers something as a run defender, so unless there is an absolutely compelling upgrade to be found elsewhere, there's no reason to relegate him to the bench permanently - no matter what the talking heads may say.

As discussed, the best option may be to take more of the pass rushing snaps and giving them to guys like Mass and Maponga, which may already be happening if the Bucs game is any indication. For those looking for us to bench Kroy or outright cut him, there's simply no reason to. While he may not have much to offer as a pass rusher, he still has a role to play in this defense.