Falcons will get a pass-rusher, eventually

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
It seemed rather ironic how UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr was supposed to be in Atlanta on Friday, with the hometown team in need of a pass-rusher.

No, he wasn't scheduled to visit the Falcons ... at least not yet.

Barr was supposed to fulfill a media obligation with Fox, but flight issues kept him from making it to town.

The Falcons still might want to keep an eye on him for future reference.

Cries for a pass-rusher are sure to continue as the Falcons move forward with their "recalibration" effort, as general manager Thomas Dimitroff put it. But the Falcons also have to be prepared for a scenario where they don't land one of the pass-rushers they covet.

It could happen if they decide to target an offensive tackle in the first round. And all indications are that's a strong possibility.

Players already have been told of an expected move toward a 3-4-based scheme. No matter whether defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has used such elements before or not, the Falcons haven't truly had the 3-4 personnel since he arrived.

Now they do, with the additions of big nose tackle Paul Soliai and run-stuffing defensive end Tyson Jackson up front. Add newly re-signed Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters as well as Malliciah Goodman to the mix and you have a formidable rotation up front.

In terms of the outside linebackers, Kroy Biermann has played a hybrid role before and could do the same from the left side this season in his return from an Achilles' injury. Although veteran Osi Umenyiora is used to having his hand on the ground, he could be an effective situational pass-rusher in such an alignment -- if he accepts a previously reported pay cut -- with Jonathan Massaquoi also standing up opposite Biermann.

Of course, many fans would love to see Buffalo's Khalil Mack at outside linebacker as Mack's draft status continues to soar. The Falcons currently own the sixth-overall pick but seem more likely to look at a pass-rusher in the later rounds rather than pass up an offensive tackle in the first.

As for Barr, Kiper said he should be drafted in the Nos. 10-20 range, so the Falcons might overlook him unless they trade down. Then again, much could happen from now until May 8.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter



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