In his five seasons with the Falcons, Kroy Biermann's always been the kind of player to do whatever the coaches ask. That attitude has allowed him to be a star on special teams, a roving defensive end and even a stand-in kicker.
Players like Biermann are valuable because they can do so much to help out a team and take up only one roster spot in doing so. Last season Biermann did a number of different things on defense from his defensive end position. In addition to rushing the passer, he was a capable run defender and he dropped back into pass coverage at times.
Having the ability to move Biermann around the field allowed defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to disguise many of his defensive schemes and Biermann was routinely seen flying all over the field. He enjoyed a solid season with four sacks and 52 tackles and this year Nolan's evolving defense will feature much of the same creativity it did last year.
Biermann is once again expected to be a key part of the creative process on defense this season.
"Multiplicty on the defensive side of the ball is what we're looking for," head coach Mike Smith said. "We want to be as multiple as we possibly can. Kroy last year was a guy that lined up with his hand in the ground, standing up and did some things in pass defense. He's been very multiple and I think he will continue to have that role."
Biermann's spent time all over the field, but his primary position coach, defensive line coach Ray Hamilton, thinks Nolan's scheme suits Biermann perfectly and another year of marination with Nolan could mean big things for the hybrid player.
"I think in Mike Nolan's scheme, his versatility really comes forward," Hamilton said. "We can rush him off different edges, we can drop him into coverage, we can make him look like a linebacker or make him look like a defensive end. His versatility really comes out in this scheme."
One area where Biermann may do less is on special teams. He's been among the team leaders in special teams tackles since he was a rookie in 2008 and he's been a consistent 'Big Four' player on special teams for a few seasons. 'Big Four' is a term applied by special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong to the players that serve roles on kick and punt return and coverage teams.
This season, his value on defense may be too great to have him playing all of the special teams roles as well and Smith said some of Biermann's work there may be scaled back.
"If he can handle the special teams as well, we'd like for him to be involved in that," Smith said after describing Biermann as "very valuable" to the Falcons. "There are certain special teams that we will probably keep him on. ...I think we'll probably lessen his load somewhat, but he'll be out there on certain special teams plays for us."
Biermann himself is ready for anything on the field, as he always has been. As the benefactor of a diverse set of skills, Biermann gets to see many different aspects of the playbook and what we saw last year may be just scratching the surface of what he (and Nolan) can do.
"I think Coach Nolan's scheme is very unique and it's very fast-paced," Biermann said. "There's a lot of depth to it when he really starts opening up that playbook. It's going to be a good year and I think guys are excited to fly around."