For a team that has been mediocre at best on the defensive side of the ball in the past few years, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux has been an integral part of any success the Atlanta Falcons have had defensively. Though the Falcons are prepared to revamp their team and possibly try to incorporate younger players on the defensive side, Babineaux is one veteran that the Falcons must keep on the team.
While it is no shock that the Falcons are clearly one of the worst defensive units in the league as they continue to allow big play after big play to virtually every team they have faced this season alone, Babineaux has been one player that has continued his consistency of playing at a high-level despite the Falcons struggling and posting a 4-10 record.
Even though Babineaux isn’t considered a top-tier defensive player like J.J. Watt or DeMarcus Ware, to the Falcons he is their “guy” who creates havoc in the backfield that continues to play with a high motor. Coach Mike Smith even acknowledges just how important Babineaux is to the Falcons who has been a consistent player for the team since the Falcons drafted him in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Smith told ESPN:
“Well, Jonathan Babineaux, I think, has really had a very good season. He’s been very disruptive. You know, Jonathan makes those plays in the defensive backfield – many times he’s led the league since we’ve been here in minus-yardage plays.”
In their latest win against the Washington Redskins where they barely survived a one-point victory, it was Babineaux who made the key plays down the stretch as he recovered two fumbles that ultimately made the difference for a team who won just their fourth game this season after going 13-3 in 2012.
While Babineaux’s stats aren’t off the charts, his presence and play on the field means so much more to the Falcons than it does on the stat sheet. This year alone, Babineaux has posted a total of 38 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and has recovered two fumbles.
Although these stats are not considered Pro Bowl worthy let alone star status, since 2005, Babineaux leads all defensive tackles with 49.5 tackles for loss. He leads the Falcons with seven tackles for loss this season.
Besides Babineaux, former first-round pick Peria Jerry and Corey Peters are also set to become unrestricted free agents. The Falcons will have some key decisions to make as they will try to fix a variety of issues beginning with a defense that has become the laughing stock of the NFL.
As Babineaux prepares for his future, he has no doubt in his mind that he would love to retire and finish out his career with the only team he has ever known. He said:
“I definitely want to finish my career here in Atlanta. I started here. I’ve been through the good times, the bad times. And I definitely want to finish here. So, we’ll have a lot of time for that in the offseason – for them and me to decide on something. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue my career here.”
The Falcons without question will need to assess their defense, and it is inevitable that drastic changes are on the way. As the Falcons will seek young and talented players to help revitalize the defense for next season, one player that the Falcons should and must keep is Babineaux.
The defensive line has always been an issue ever since Smith arrived back in 2008, and losing a player like Babineaux will be a costly. The Falcons must re-sign Babineaux as he continues to show through his play that not only does he deserve to stay, but the Falcons need his energy and passion moving forward.