When Lawrence Sidbury heard who his new defensive coordinator would be, he knew it had potential to be a positive for him. To say he was excited is an understatement. Familiar with Mike Nolan's successful run as a defensive coordinator, most recently in Miami and Baltimore, he knew a coach was coming that may be able to put his special talents to use.
After an overlooked four-sack season last year, Sidbury returns for year No. 4 believing Nolan's scheme on defense will be able to utilize the athleticism he brings to the defensive end position. With the variety of looks that are used in Nolan's defense, a player like Sidbury offers a few advantages in addition to the pass-rushing he showed from the basic defensive end position last year.
"Compared to his first two years, last year was his most productive season," head coach Mike Smith said on Saturday. "He's very athletic. With some of the multiplicity and the flexibility we're going to have defensively, he's a guy that can do a number of things. That's something that is attractive to our defensive staff."
The Falcons dropped their defensive ends into coverage last year and some of that will happen again this year, but additionally there will be 3-4 looks where some of the more athletic ends like Sidbury will be able to line up as pass-rushing linebackers. They'll be asked to do a lot of different things in the defense and it's the kind of role Sidbury is looking forward to.
"(Nolan's defense) makes use of my athleticism," Sidbury said. "I get to do a little bit of everything in the defense. We get to play some standard D-end, we get to be up in a linebacker's stance, drop, rush and cover. We get to do a little bit of everything so it's fun."
Although he's been with the Falcons for a few seasons now, Sidbury will not be immune to the competition that is taking place all across Atlanta's roster during this training camp. The numbers game that is working out the 53-man roster limits the number of defensive ends that can be carried into the season and Sidbury faces compettion from Jonathan Massaquoi, a fifth-round pick this season.
"Lawrence is in a situation where we drafted a defensive end so there's going to be some competition there," Smith said of Sidbury.