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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- With a new defensive system on the chalk board and their offices barely unpacked, Head Coach Mike Smith and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff had some decisions to make.

The duo was preparing for its first offseason together and the Falcons needed to do some retooling along the defensive line.

They examined the talent in the NFL Draft and went through their free agency lists. A plan was executed and the result was a group of linemen with a different look than the one that suited up in 2007.

Six new faces -- including free agent additions Simon Fraser, Kindal Moorehead and Rashad Moore -- will work along the defensive front when the team opens Russell Falcons Training Camp July 26. The team also added sack artist Kroy Biermann in the fifth round of the NFL Draft and Brandon Miller as an undrafted free agent.

Some critical eyebrows raised when the team elected not to make a move for marquee defensive tackles on draft day but the coach and the general manager said the move did not come without careful planning.

"We looked forward in terms of what was going to be available in the draft and we knew there were limited players on the defensive line, especially at the defensive tackle position," Smith said. "That is why we went out and signed the defensive tackles that we did in free agency. We made our moves there. A lot of them have starts and games under their belt... They're not the big splash signings but we feel these guys will come to work every day, work hard and aren't afraid to get dirty."

An apt description of the team's personnel philosophy and defensive style.

The Falcons haven't practiced with full pads yet, but Smith said the group has picked up the new schemes.

All starters -- and key reserves -- from Week 11 to the close of 2007 return, including nine-year veteran John Abraham (10 sacks). Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux played consistently throughout the season, while Montavious Stanley was a late addition that started the final six games (35 tackles).

Chauncey Davis again showed an ability to play both left and right defensive end and recorded two sacks and 28 tackles.

Trey Lewis started three games during his rookie season before a knee injury. If healthy, the Falcons have another talented player to compete for a starting role in 2008.

A first-round pick last April, defensive end Jamaal Anderson is eager to live up to his pre-draft billing. He didn't have a sack in his rookie campaign, but was also called upon to play more of a run-stopper role.

"I'm looking to make some changes; I know what I need to work on," he said. "We have a whole new staff and basically a new team. I feel like it's going to be a good year fr both the team and myself."

Almost every position group will work with a new coach this season but Ray Hamilton -- a former NFL defensive lineman -- seems to match the D-line's attitude and style.

"My coaching style is kind of an in-your-face type coaching style," he said. "I like to be very active with the players. I like to talk back and forth with my players. I like to challenge my players mentally as well as physically... I'm very vocal and very disciplined as far as (explaining) what they're supposed to do. I'm very fundamental-oriented. Basically the fundamentals of playing defensive line don't change from Pop Warner, to high school to college -- good feet, good hands, good pad level. Those are basic fundamentals you have to work on to be a good defensive lineman."

Capturing fundamental linemen was a goal for Smith and, if success is measured in experience and starts, the Falcons have it.

Free agent additions combine for 167 games played. Moorehead played in 75 games with the Panthers, totaling 138 tackles, nine sacks and three forced fumbles. Moore is currently the heaviest player on the roster (353 pounds) and figures to provide a solid body in run defense while Fraser has played inside and outside in 48 career games. Moorehead can also line up at defensive end or tackle.

Taking advantage of versatility will be key when stopping the run in 2008.

"You can get the job done with smaller guys but you have to be a very disruptive defense in order to stop the run," said Hamilton, who coached Pro Bowl defensive tackles John Henderson (325 pounds) and Marcus Stroud (306 pounds) in Jacksonville. "Offensive lineman are big, fat hogs that hold you if you let them. That's why it's tough for defensive linemen to come into the league and be successful if they don't have a good coach to teach them how to use their hands and keep offensive linemen from holding them."

Biermann could be a wild card when it comes to defending the pass.

The rookie has the look of a linebacker. In fact, some teams in the NFL had him graded at that position. The Falcons will use him at his college position, where he won the 2007 Buck Buchanan Award. He used his burst off the snap, instincts and high motor to rack up gaudy numbers last season (72 tackles, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles).

"I'm just excited to be here," he said. "I didn't have any plans to play defensive end in college but that's where I got moved to. I just took it and ran with it. That's where I succeed and that's where they put me here. I'm going to take it, run with it and see if that's where I can succeed at this level."

According to Hamilton, Biermann already has some of the tools needed to terrorize quarterbacks in the NFL. Unlike some smaller pass-rush specialists, Biermann carries the traits of an every-down lineman.

"Kroy knows how to play defensive line," Hamilton said. "He's got the speed so he's already got one advantage."

Taking advantage of such individual strengths will be key as that scheme works its way from the chalk board to the field. But linemen new and returning have taken the first steps to embrace the Falcons' motto They're eager to prove the team can get it done without that "big splash" addition.

"It's a brand new team," Mooreheaed said. "I like what (the coaching staff's) got going on. There are a lot of positive things going on around here. I think we're going to be pretty good."

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formul8or (7/17/2008)
I obviously don't worry about Abe's productivity, I really don't worry much about Anderson improving.

But the DT spots worry me still.

Same here. I would like for us to add one of GA UT and a NT in next years draft. Or find a good one in FA.
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RiSeOfThEfAlCoNz (7/18/2008)
Chauncey Davis again showed an ability to play both left and right defensive end and recorded two sacks and 28 tackles. ....

i didnt know this.... didnt J Anderson get only 30 tackles and no sack?.....with more starts?

im not usuallya j anderson basher...but this is crazy..

With Chauncey being the backup, was he even playing always against the first team offense?

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I don't have accurate numbers on how many snaps Chauncey played last year, but that's normally an important measure for D-linemen, not so much starts. It's tough to drop him in the same conversation with Anderson because Davis played both sides of the ball. Some games he played more for Abe, some games he played more for Jamaal. This year, if Anderson gets more work at D-tackle (which he has during the offseason) we could see more of Chauncey. He's stronger than people give him credit for.

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formul8or (7/17/2008)
I obviously don't worry about Abe's productivity, I really don't worry much about Anderson improving.

But the DT spots worry me still.

I agree hopefully Hamilton's coaching style will get good production from the DL.I do think there is enough to work with to get a good rotation going on the DL

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Lets not forget that one of the best D-lines we've ever had (finished #2 against the run, 11th in sacks) was composed of late round picks (Travis Hall, 6th round... Lester Archambeau, 7th round.. Antonio Edwards, 8th round... John Burrough, 7th round... Shawn Swayda, 6th round), journeyman vets (Archambeau from Green Bay, Shane Dronett from Denver, Edwards from Seattle, Esera Tuaolo was with Green Bay, Vikings and Jags, Swayda was with the Bears) and Chuck Smith (2nd round pick by the Falcons).

"The Bomb Squad" had no particular stars (although Smith could arguably be called one) but they worked really well together and played fundamentally sound football.

As long as this group can come together, even though we have only 1 star player in Abraham, I think they can do well.

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brvslugger10 (7/17/2008)
formul8or (7/17/2008)
I obviously don't worry about Abe's productivity, I really don't worry much about Anderson improving.

But the DT spots worry me still.

Same here. I would like for us to add one of GA UT and a NT in next years draft. Or find a good one in FA.
formul8or (7/17/2008)
I obviously don't worry about Abe's productivity, I really don't worry much about Anderson improving.

But the DT spots worry me still.

I agree. Right now, they're talking a good game, but we will see once they starting playing if it was a mistake to pass on some of those Defensive Tackles that were available in the draft.

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