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Atlanta Falcons Position Battles: Defensive Line- Part 3: Uncertainty

July 16th, 2013 at 2:38 PM
By Graham Waldrop

'Patriots at Falcons Game 2005' photo (c) 2005, Charles Atkeison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So far, we've covered DE Kroy Biermann, DT Jonathan Babineaux, DT Peria Jerry and rookie DE Malliciah Goodman.

Today we will look at two players who were hampered by injury in the 2012 season, leaving the outlook of their respective seasons this year with some uncertainty as to how they will bounce back this year.

One is a four year veteran, the other is a rookie.  

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: COREY PETERS

Corey Peters wasn't overly impressive in his rookie season, but put up a respectable season.  He accumulated 33 combined tackles in the trenches along with 25 solo tackles.  Although he only had one sack and two tackles for loss, Peters proved he could get to the ball carrier with his respectable tackling statistics.

In 2011 Peters had his best year of his career.  He amassed a career high in sacks with three, and three tackles for loss.  He also proved he could defend the pass with three passes defended and one interception.  His tackling numbers went down a bit, but by increasing his sacks and tackles for loss, Peters looked like he could be primed for a breakout season in 2012.

Unfortunately, injury severely limited his playing time in 2012 resulting in Peters worst season thus far.  He posted career lows in combined tackles with 15, solo tackles with 11, no sacks and no tackles for loss.  Peters only played in 10 games last year due to the injury.

Peters returns in the final year of his initial rookie contract.  Now that he has recovered from his injury and appears to be healthy heading into training camp, we simply don't know how he will respond in his fourth NFL season.   

If Peters is healthy and able to show any semblance of his 2011 season, he should beat out the ineffective Jerry.  If not, Jerry has shown no real promise in his NFL career, and the aging Jonathan Babineaux needs a strong partner.  The fate of getting a push up the middle to stop running backs and getting a maximum pass rush may hinge on Peters' effectiveness.

DEFENSIVE END: STANSLY MAPONGA

Stansly Maponga was a fifth round pick in this year's NFL Draft.  He stands at 6'2 and weighs 256 pounds.  He is undersized when it comes to an NFL DE, but was able to put together a solid career at TCU.  After having an average season in his freshman year, Maponga exploded in his sophomore season for 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, 33 solo tackles and 22 combined tackles.  This is a stat line the Falcons would love to see opposite Osi Umenyiora.  

However, due to injury, Maponga did not have as strong a season last year with the Horned Frogs.  With only four sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and 15 solo tackles, this injury limited Maponga's production significantly.

But like Peters, Maponga is expected to be fully healthy heading into this season.  The opposite DE position is wide open to whoever can have the best preseason and training camp, so like fellow rookie Malliciah Goodman, Maponga will get his shot.

In this video, some highlights were put together of some of Maponga's finest moments at TCU.  Check it out to watch Maponga wreak havoc on the backfield.

As you can see, he has some impressive closing speed, and the ability to track down the ball carrier on the run.  He can use his quickness to get around offensive lineman and full backs (without getting locked up) to get to the quarterback.

One of the aspects not highlighted in this video is what happens when Maponga is locked up with an offensive lineman who can match his speed.  

This is highlighted as one of his weaknesses in his NFL Draft profile by NFL.com.

Struggles to counter when the offensive lineman gets his hands on him or hits him with a cut block.

This will definitely happen to Maponga a lot more in the NFL than it happened during his time at TCU.   He is going to need to be able to combine his speed with the ability to beat offensive lineman when blocked in order to be an effective NFL lineman.

Despite his lack of size, Maponga has the skill set and ball sense to be a good defensive lineman in the NFL.  The questions of his health and how he will be able to adjust to NFL offensive line protection schemes will be a continuing question throughout training camp.

With both Peters and Maponga coming off injuries last year, it will be interesting to see how they respond once training camp comes around.  Both have great opportunities, particularly Peters, to be starters on the defensive line this year.

How do you feel about Peters and Maponga?  Let us know in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Falcons, Corey Peters, Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Football, NFL, Stansly Maponga

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