Typically, the responsibility of the defensive line coach is to develop young, potential-laden players into difference makers. So what has Atlanta Falcons’ Ray Hamilton been up to recently?
Based on what his young group of defensive ends has accomplished over the past few seasons, not a whole lot. He was hired by the Falcons in 2008 after making a name for himself as one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL. Hamilton, however, hasn’t lived up to his billing since landing in Atlanta.
Let’s take players like Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi for example. All three were drafted to help boost the Falcons’ lackluster pass rush, yet none have panned out up to this point. While other teams around the league are finding dynamic ways to get to the quarterback, Hamilton and Co. have watched promising players turn into busts.
Sidbury had all the upside to become an elite pass rusher, but instead notched five sacks in four years and is no longer with the Falcons. Meanwhile, Matthews and Massaquoi have stumbled out of the gates.
Just look at what happened with Ray Edwards. After proving himself as an impact end with the Minnesota Vikings, he floundered as a free agent acquisition with the Falcons. In two years in Atlanta, he managed 3.5 sacks and found a new career in boxing. Talk about a waste of talent.
It’s more than just underachieving and bad attitudes, though.
Apart from John Abraham, who is no longer with the team, and Kroy Biermann, the Falcons pass rush has been a mess. Players can’t shed blocks, turn the edge or get their arms around quarterbacks long enough to pull them to the ground. All of the technique that turns potential into production isn’t there. The majority of the time, it can be attributed mainly to a lack of coaching.
While you can’t always blame the coaching for a lack of production, it’s hard to pin the blame anywhere else at this point. The rest of the Falcons’ roster has found ways to be effective – evidenced by their 13-3 finish in 2012 – but the pass rush has simply failed to develop despite the presence of several intriguing prospects.
At least from an outside perspective, there’s been nearly zero improvement along the Falcons defensive line. If an entire position is struggling, there may be a deeper meaning. It’s time to stop blaming the players and point the finger at the coach that hasn’t given them the tools to succeed.
Unless sack production sores, Hamilton deserves the ax in 2013.