The Falcons' defense has been formulated and put together to be quick in the four previous years under head coach Mike Smith. Now, with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Falcons have gotten a little more girth at the defensive tackle position and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton is ready to see what Travian Robertson and Micanor Regis can do when they strap the pads on later this month.
Jay Adams: Free agency was kind to you in that you got John Abraham and Kroy Biermann back. What does it mean to have those two guys back in the fold for you?
Ray Hamilton: Quite a bit. Those are our two best defensive end athletes. John Abraham is obviously one of the best pass rushers in the history of the game, and Biermann is one of our up-and-coming guys. Both athletic guys, both help our team in a lot of ways, so we're very happy to have them back.
JA: You also add a new guy in Jonathan Massaquoi in the 2012 NFL Draft. In the early stages, what do you think of him?
RH: He's a very quick and explosive guy. He shows the pass-rush ability that we thought he had when we saw him at Troy, but he's picking up things. Rookies heads swim a little bit because there's so much going on, but he's showed a good ability to pick up what we're putting in. He's smart enough, but very quick, very athletic, very explosive.
JA: The last couple of years, you've had some very good defensive tackles to work with. The core group of guys you have in the middle, what's your assessment of where they are and what they bring to the table?
RH: Of course, the rookies, we haven't seen them in pads yet. That's the big thing for them. Our guys coming back, (Jonathan) Babineaux was a little bit hurt last year. He's going to be fine this year. Corey (Peters) has been just really, really good. He's just a really solid player for us. I thought last year, Vance Walker got better and Peria Jerry got better. We've got four guys in our core that I think are on the uprise. Now, the new guys we have — (Travian) Robertson and (Micanor) Regis, from Miami — those guys are bigger guys than what we've had around, but we've only seen them without pads so far, so hopefully, that size and girth and strength — they look big, they look strong, they can move — so hopefully, that will help us in there. It's all about competition. We compete every day, every play, and that's what we have those guys in here for.
JA: Fans have really kept an eye on Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews, two young guys with a lot of potential. What do you see as the next steps for them in their careers?
RH: Obviously, they have to get better. Sidbury has to come in and show that he's improved from last year. Matthews didn't play at all last year, but he's a big, strong, physical, tough guy that we hope will make some big strides and be competitive again this year for us.