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During the offseason we'll take a look at a hot topic on the Talk About the Falcons department of FalconsLife and examine what's on the minds of Falcons fans.
An interesting topic came up this week on TATF, started by since68andcounting, who asked what current non-starter will have a big impact this year.
The first name to come to mind when asked this question is running back Jacquizz Rodgers. With the expectation of a more involved screen game on offense for Atlanta in 2012, Rodgers is expected to get more touches after a rookie season that saw more snaps for the back as the season progressed with positive results. Rodgers certainly got his share of votes and comments from fans.
Many fans shared the name of Harry Douglas, but if the slot cornerback is now considered a starting position on defense for many teams, perhaps the same could be said for the slot receiver. It's hard not to say Douglas is a starter at this point, especially with more of a passing attack expected in the coming season.
It seems that most fans think the non-starter with the most impact will come from the defensive line or at running back. In addition to Rodgers, the name of Jason Snelling was mentioned. Snelling was re-signed in the offseason and returns for his sixth season with the Falcons. He's been a versatile role player and spot starter throughout his career and his already-demonstrated ability to catch passes out of the backfield makes him an obvious choice along with Rodgers.
Two rookies on the defensive line, Jonathan Massaquoi and Travian Robertson, got some mentions on the thread. Head coach Mike Smith said at the close of minicamp in June that competition along the defensive line would be fierce when training camp begins. Both rookies were drafted which works in their favor but they'll have their work cut out for them. They both play positions that are rotation heavy and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme features numerous pass rushers in a variety of ways and from a variety of places on the field, both of which work in Massaquoi and Robertson's favor.
The backup that got the most votes is fourth-year defensive end Lawrence Sidbury. Sidbury had four sacks last season, a career high, as a reserve pass rusher and he's flashed potential his entire time with the Falcons since being drafted in the fourth round in 2009. Sidbury, along with Kroy Biermann, has worked his way into being a key reserve on the defensive line and he also stands to gain the most from Nolan's presence at defensive coordinator.
The choice of Sidbury is a wise one since Nolan has a history of taking talented young pass rushers and molding them into great players in that role with his tutelage and scheme diversity. A jump into the eight sack range wouldn't be out of the question for Sidbury. With Biermann providing what he's consistently given in conjunction with another strong year from John Abraham and a bounce-back season from Ray Edwards, Sidbury's contribution could help the defense significantly.
Another reason to expect a D-lineman to have a strong year in a backup role is the presence of corners Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel. With three strong corners covering the passing field, the lineman will potentially have that extra second that they seemed to need in recent seasons to not only secure the quarterback, but bring him down.
Like his linemates, Sidbury will have to fight for whatever he gets during training camp, but a quietly strong year with limited snaps last season could be an indication that he's ready to break out and return the potential that he was drafted on.