The news about the release of Ray Edwards was surprising but the emergence of Kroy Biermann gives the Falcons a pass rusher that fits well within defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme.
There are a handful of other defensive ends on the Falcons roster that haven't gotten much of a chance this season. That appears to be changing. One player in particular is a familiar name for Falcons fans, even if they haven't heard much about him this season.
Lawrence Sidbury, a 2009 draft pick, hasn't seen quite the opportunities he had last season when he finished second on the team in sacks with four. Last season, Sidbury didn't begin to see double-digit snaps consistently on defense until Week 11. From that week to the end of the season, the fewest snaps he saw in a single game was 13 and his max was 28.
During that seven-week time span, Sidbury saw 85 pass-rushing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Of those snaps, 12 resulted in a play that affected the quarterback (PFF defines that as a QB sack, hit or hurry).
This season, Sidbury has been inactive for four games and his snap-count high is 12, with only one QB-affecting stat (a hurry against San Diego) to his credit. Sidbury is the headliner among a young group of defensive ends at Nolan's disposal for the remainder of the season; Cliff Matthews and 2012 rookie Jonathan Massaquoi are the others.
"They're all young guys that have not done the job yet," Nolan said. "They're talented young guys. They work well in practice. They've shown the ability to at least get the shot to do the job."
Against the Chiefs, Matthews showed some potential. In eight pass rushes, he hurried the QB twice.
Biermann figures to continue to see the majority of snaps opposite John Abraham, but all three next-in-line ends figure to be in the mix for the 23 snaps Edwards averaged this season.
Of Biermann's 218 pass-rush snaps this season, he's affected the QB on 20 of them. With more time on the field in recent weeks, he's begun to come on strong. In 69 snaps over the last three games rushing the passer, he's been effective on eight of them.
Biermann is doing his part and has clearly established himself as the top secondary option to rush the quarterback after Abraham. The young three guys in the mix, while in experienced, will now be given the chance to step on the field and do what the coaching staff feels they do best: rush the passer.
"All three of them are guys that we're hoping to develop and we've got to start that process at some time so it looks like this is going to be it," Nolan said.