With one week left before training camp, we continue to analyze the Atlanta Falcons various position battles by concluding our defensive line position battles series. We will cover two players who saw limited action last season, but may see an increased role this year.
DEFENSIVE END: JONATHAN MASSAQUOI
Massaquoi played in only eight games last season, and spent the majority of his time on special teams. In those eight games Massaquoi only had two combined tackles, no solo tackles, no tackles for loss, no sacks and no forced fumbles.
It's hard to get a good read on what Massaquoi brings to the table at the NFL level with such a sparse season last year. He was clearly in a position where he was learning the playbook and was relegated to a special teams role.
In college, Massaquoi was a standout at the University of Troy. He only played two seasons, but averaged impressive statistics during his collegiate career. He averaged 40.5 solo tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 9.75 sacks per season. While these numbers were put up in the Sun Belt Conference, they're still encouraging.
It's been a long process for Massaquoi to adjust to the NFL after dominating at Troy. But it appears he is taking the process step by step and atlantafalcons.com is reporting that he has a much better understanding of the defensive playbook this year.
Massaquoi told atlantafalcons.com:
"I don’t just know one part of the bicycle, now I know the chain, the handle bars, the seat, I know how to properly ride the bike,” he said. “That’s my goal this year coming onto the field, being properly able to ride that bike and just go out there and play ball.”
Look for Massaquoi to get plenty of chances in the preseason to prove himself as he guns for the starting DE position opposite Osi Yumenyiora. It is still too difficult to predict what role he will have until we see him in the preseason and hear from coach Mike Smith.
In seven games he also posted only two combined tackles in limited action.
The jury is as out on Travian Robertson as much as it is on Jonathan Massaquoi. But the Falcons are in more of a bind at DT than they are at DE. Three of the players we've looked at in our series, Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry are all in the final years of their contract. Babineaux is 32, and while he's been consistent, there's no doubt he is approaching the end of his career. Jerry has been mostly a bust and Peters is coming off an injury plagued season.
After that, there isn't really any depth on the defensive line at all. Robertson could be the only DT on the roster out of these four players in the 2014 season.
Robertson stands at 6'4 and weighs a sizable 304 pounds. This is a very ideal size for a DT in the NFL. Robertson proved he could play at a high level in the SEC, playing for Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks.
In his junior and senior seasons, Robertson put up impressive stat lines. He averaged 26.5 solo tackles, 19 combined tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 3.25 sacks over those two seasons.
That isn't to say he's going to break out this year and put up anything close to what he did at South Carolina. But it is encouraging to see that he played well in the toughest conference in college football.
Robertson will start low on the depth chart heading into training camp, but the opportunity is there to prove himself in the preseason. If he has a good training camp, he will more than likely get some snaps with the defensive tackle position being in such limbo heading into the year. Robertson will compete with Jerry and Peters to start opposite Babineaux.
Will Massaquoi and Robertson breakout in training camp and put themselves in position to succeed in 2014? Or will it be another year of special teams for these two players?
In case you missed any of the other coverage on the D-Line, here are the links to parts 1-3.
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