The best thing about the Atlanta Falcons’ veteran purge on defense the past couple years is that they are turning back the clock and turning up the talent. Despite the name value of guys like Keith Brooking, Grady Jackson and Lawyer Milloy, they were past their prime and not in the team’s plans down the road.
In 2008, the team gave playing time to young guys like Curtis Lofton, Chevis Jackson, Kroy Biermann, Brent Grimes and Chris Houston. They gained valuable experience and the team managed to go 11-5 and made the playoffs, despite ranking the bottom third of the NFL statistically.
In 2009, all the above players are part of the Falcons’ plans for defensive success. In addition, the 2009 draft class was filled with defensive talent that could have the impact of the 2008 class. William Moore is a big-play safety that could be starting week 1, along with defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who dropped to Atlanta with the #24 pick. Chris Owens is a potential sleeper at cornerback, while Spencer Adkins and Lawrence Sidbury could be edge rushers and special teams’ stars.
In addition to all the 1st and 2nd year players on the defensive side of the ball, Stephen Nicholas, Trey Lewis and Thomas DeCloud are still developing and also bolster the roster.
All this youth alongside John Abraham, Mike Peterson and Erik Coleman could drastically improve a defense that only needs to be above-average for the Falcons to flourish. Matt Ryan and the offense don’t need a lot of help, but every game in 2008 was close leading to a lot of vital possessions in the 4th quarter.