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Osi Umenyiora Still The Designated Pass Rusher

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The veteran defender will have a smaller but important role in 2014.

Kevin C. Cox

Earlier this year, there was a lot of talk about Osi Umenyiora filling a designated pass rusher role, something the Falcons hoped would keep him fresh and allow him to be as effective as possible on a per-snap basis. Nothing has changed in the intervening months, per D. Orlando Ledbetter.

This is good news for the team, quite frankly. Osi had 7.5 sacks last season but scuffled for long stretches, particularly as a run defender, and he'll be 33 years old before the season ends. With a better supporting cast and better options to rotate in for the early downs, the team can keep a slimmed-down Umenyiora fresher by inserting him on third downs and situationally during earlier downs, minimizing his exposure to opposing running backs.

Really, this is what Mike Nolan would love to be doing all the time with his defense: Rotating players in and out based on matchups and the situation on the field, hiding their weaknesses while giving them an opportunity to display their strengths. This year, he may get the opportunity to do more of it, and Osi will be one of the primary beneficiaries.

I wouldn't be stunned to see Umenyiora exceed his 2013 production in this role, depending on how many snaps he can carve out. Would you?