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Birds look for line mix that produces pass rush


  • *FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --There's no shortage of possibilities for an NFL defense.

But, in the end, most schemes succeed or fail based on the success of the defensive line and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. So look for plenty of players to rotate along the front four at Russell Falcons Training Camp as coaches look for just the right mix heading into the 2009 season.

"We should be much improved and we need to be much improved in regards to the pass rush," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "How that will all work itself out, we'll see, but it's a good competition for us right now. The speed and experience factor are the biggest indicators right now that we'll be better."

Some notes on linemen entering camp...

No. 61 Vance Walker (DT)
6'2" | 307 lbs. | Experience: RThe Falcons seventh-round draft pick finished his career at Georgia Tech with 110 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

No. 64 Maurice Lucas (DE)
6'4" | 237 | Experience: RThe Falcons signed Lucas just after the NFL Draft. He was a 13-game starter for Colorado in 2008, finishing with 43 tackles and a sack. In his career, Lucas racked up 107 tackles, four sacks, three fumble recoveries and two passes defensed.

No. 71 Kroy Biermann (DE)
6'3" | 260 lbs. | Experience: 2
Biermann got extra reps in organized team activities and mini camp as John Abraham nursed some minor injuries. He also bulked up. One of the bright spots in the pass rush last season, Biermann picked up a pair of sacks and 14 tackles as a rookie.

No. 90 Lawrence Sidbury (DE)
6'3" | 265 lbs. | Experience: RRegarded by experts and fans as a "sleeper" in the 2009 Falcons Draft class, Sidbury brings an impressive football background to the defensive line. He started 31 of 52 games at Richmond, finishing his career with 145 tackles, 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four passes defensed. Look for the Falcons to -- initially -- put Sidbury in speed, edge-rushing situations.

No. 91 Tywain Myles (DT)
6'2" | 319 lbs. | Experience: 1
Myles spent 2008 training camp with the Jaguars but was released before the first regular-season game. He totaled 43 tackles as a senior at Tarleton State (Texas) and led the team with six sacks.

No. 92 Chauncey Davis (DE)
6'2" | 262 lbs. | Experence: 5
The Falcons re-signed Davis earlier in the offseason, ensuring the presence of an experienced, all-around player for the defensive line rotation. He's played in 64 career games (19 starts). In 2008, Davis totaled 35 tackles (27 solo), a career-high four sacks, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and one pass defensed.

No. 93 Thomas Johnson (DT)
6'2" | 304 lbs. | Experience: 2Johnson may not be a household name, but the new addition caught the eyes of Falcons coaches during offseason conditioning and workouts. "Right now (Thomas Johnson) and Trey Lewis are battling it out," VanGorder said when asked about the competition to replace Grady Jackson. "There's competition in there but I think the size of (Johnson) and Trey in regards to a Grady comparison gives us that space eater, but a little bit faster and run-to-the-ball kind of guy. We hope we'll be better." Johnson has spent time with the Jets, Texans and Cowboys in his career, totaling 16 tackles.

No. 94 Peria Jerry (DT)
6'2" | 294 lbs. | Experience: R
The Falcons addressed the defensive line twice in the NFL Draft, starting with Jerry as a first-round pick. In 38 career games at Ole Miss, he totaled 132 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recoveries and one interception. He admits the team pushed a lot of information at him and other rookies during mini camp, but he's ready to learn quickly. "They're throwing it at us but I think I'm picking up on it pretty well," he said. "I'm just getting better each practice."

No. 95 Jonathan Babineaux (DT)
6'2" | 296 lbs. | Experience: 5Babineaux signed a contract extension to stay in Atlanta during the 2008 season. But that's not the only reason fans can look at him as one of the anchors on the defensive line. He was a member of the *USA Today *"All-Joe" team last season, the same year he ranked fourth in the NFL in tackles for loss, non-sacks (9.5). Babineaux has 23 tackles for loss over the past three seasons.

No. 97 Trey Lewis (DT)
6'3" | 316 lbs. | Experience: 2Lewis emerged as a rookie starter for the Falcons in 2007 before a knee injury -- and an offseason setback -- put him on the reserve roster for more than a year. He enters camp healthy and with a new understanding for the game. "During the season I went to every meeting," he said. "I know the system well and it shouldn't be hard for me to get back into the swing of things. Obviously I have to go out there and see how it feels physically."

No. 98 Jamaal Anderson (DE)
6'6" | 289 lbs. | Experience: 3
Anderson picked up the first two sacks of his career in 2008 and continued to develop as a defensive end. He said he's learning from veteran defensive line coach Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton and looks forward to producing in a pivotal third year as a professional. He also has 81 tackles, a forced fumble and six pass deflections in his career.

No. 99 Jason Jefferson (DT)
6'1" | 297 lbs. | Experience: 5
Jefferson started a game for an injured Jackson in 2008 and made contributions as a reserve for the entire season. In all he played in 13 games with nine tackles and a fumble recovery. He's played in 34 games over his career.

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