- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Falcons coach Mike Smith wants to keep bodies fresh along the defensive line. And the same time, he might have put his veteran linemen on alert.
During last Sunday’s 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Smith and the coaching staff increased the playing time of rookie defensive ends Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga. Goodman played 35 defensive snaps while Maponga, with just one snap in three previous games while being inactive the first two games, played 21 snaps.
"When you have a bye week, you have an opportunity to study your football team even a little bit more in-depth," Smith explained. "One of the things that we felt would help us is that we would get a rotation going with our defensive linemen. And I thought that it worked very well for us [Sunday].
"We had much better pressure. We were able to sack the quarterback three times. We had opportunities for a couple of other plays. But I thought it was nice to see some of the young guys stepping up, specifically Malliciah Goodman as well as Stansly Maponga, who had probably more playing time in this game -- both the guys -- than any other game this year."
Goodman had two tackles and a roughing-the-passer penalty while Maponga picked up a flag for unnecessary roughness. Regardless, Smith seemed encouraged with what he saw from the young pass-rushers.
Osi Umenyiora has started every game at right end while a host of players, including Jonathan Massaquoi, have been listed as the starter at left end. Massaquoi came in on the first third-down play on Sunday and was part of the pressure that led to William Moore's sack-fumble and Thomas DeCoud's 30-yard touchdown off the fumble recovery. Massaquoi also was credited with a half-sack along with linebacker Joplo Bartu.
Having more of a rotation along the defensive line is something Smith has done in the past to keep bodies fresh. The Falcons needed it in the last game after the defense was on the field for almost 10 minutes during a Bucs' fourth-quarter drive.
Smith was asked why such a rotation wasn't considered in previous games.
"We didn’t feel like we had the young guys quite ready to go at the beginning of the season," Smith said. "If you recall, Stansly Maponga was not participating in training camp. We felt like by the time we got to our bye week, that we would have him really ready to roll. He did a nice job in the game [Sunday]. And I thought Malliciah had some pressure on the quarterback as well.
"It’s good to see those young guys stepping up."