If offense wins games and defense wins championships, then yards are either won or defended in the trenches. Unfortunately for the 2012 Atlanta Falcons, their defensive line were outmuscled and outmanned for big chunks of the season, and will need to fight back in 2013 to earn their respect back as football players.
The Falcons’ defense did improve slightly as they ranked 23rd in passing defense and 21st in rushing defense, but as the season continued, they worsened and were dominated by the physical teams in the NFL. Besides defensive end John Abraham, the Falcons’ defensive line underachieved and failed to meet high expectations.
In 2011, the Falcons tried to upgrade by signing Ray Edwards to a five-year deal worth $30 million. After one year with the team, the Falcons ended up cutting Edwards, who was guaranteed $11 million, and only received nine tackles, zero sacks and two tackles for losses.
During the 2012-13 season, the Falcons’ defense recorded a mere 29 sacks, with 20 coming from the defensive line. Of those 20 sacks however, 10 of them belonged to Abraham, who is no longer with the team. The rest came from Kroy Biermann who had four, Vance Walker with three and Jonathan Babineaux with three.
For a Falcons team that is supposedly in win-now mode, things are not looking good as their four-man wall front resembles more of an antique castle with a huge hole in the middle instead of an intimidating defense like the Great Wall of China.
No matter how much firepower the Falcons’ offense has or how athletic their secondary is, if their defensive line plays like they did in 2012, the Falcons will once again have a disappointing end to what will probably a great regular season.
Guys like Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, Biermann and Babineaux need to step up and go from playing like a scared little girl who just saw Paranormal Activity to playing like a veteran Navy Seal ready to be in the front lines.
Make no mistake about it, the defensive line is the most crucial part of the defense as they set the tempo and attitude for the rest of their teammates. In a passing league like today, the defensive linemen must be able to put immense pressure and be able to attack the focal point of any offense in the NFL.
Atlanta will need their defensive line to get dirty and be aggressive in fighting back, or else the Falcons will end up with the same result, which is watching the Super Bowl from their homes. The Falcons are ready to continue their conquest, and if the front four can fight back and not get bullied in 2013, watch out for the Dirty Birds.