NFC South: Ziggy Hood
Tampa Bay’s Roy Miller has more tackles (88) than any other defensive tackle from that draft.
Miller wasn’t the biggest name at the time of the draft. Green Bay’s B.J. Raji, Atlanta’s Peria Jerry and Pittsburgh’s Ziggy Hood were the only defensive tackles taken in the first round that year.
Raji and Hood probably have had the best careers so far, while Jerry had his career thrown off track by an injury early in his rookie year. Raji has more sacks (10.5) than any defensive tackle taken in that class and Hood has 6.5 sacks.
But it turns out there was some pretty good value for defensive tackles in the third round of the 2009 draft. That’s where Miller and Jacksonville’s Terrance Knighton were selected. Knighton is second to Miller in tackles with 85 and he’s second to Raji with 7.5 sacks. Knighton also has 50 career starts, the most of any defensive tackle from that draft.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Miller is that he has started only 25 of 53 career games, but he has been able to put up big tackle numbers.
Miller started all 16 games in 2010, but only three in 2011. He reclaimed the starting nose tackle job this year, after the Bucs traded away Brian Price.
Time for a quick trip through the mailbag.
Matt in Athens, GA writes: Pat, I gotta know, depending on how well the Falcons do this year (I'm saying 10 to 11 wins against that schedule), how much longer can this team hold together their superstar coaching staff? You've got Musgrave and Mularkey, and any Dawg fan worth their salt knows Coach Van Gorder is a superstar waiting to to explode on to the scene, possibly at a FBS school (and not, say, Georgia Southern). While the Falcons have a great core of players and front office people, I really believe it's this coaching staff that's their true ace in the hole. Losing Mularkey would mean an upgrade for Musgrave, but losing both could be catastrophic for Ryan's further development. And we saw last year what BVG did with all of those old wheels on the Falcons defense. Losing his smarts and emotional fire from that side of the ball would leave a gaping hole not easily patched. How do you see this playing out after this year?
Pat Yasinskas: Worrying about losing assistant coaches to other jobs is a nice problem to have. There's no question the Falcons have some rising stars on their staff. In fact, I think Mike Smith has one of the best coaching staffs in the league. But the good news is that staff is in place for this season. Another successful year could change that, but that's the nature of the business.
Sam in Oympia Wa writes: What will the Saints do to replace Deuce? Is Thomas the future and what will Bush's role be this year? Also are there any palyers at the position who could make an impact this year who didn't last year?Pat Yasinskas: I think it's pretty obvious the Saints are planning to go with Pierre Thomas as the main guy in their running game. He did a nice job last year and Reggie Bush will mix in to take some carries, but I think you'll see Bush more involved in the passing game. The Saints still aren't sure who their short-yardage runner will be, but don't count out Mike Bell.
Bobby in Charlotte writes: Hey Pat, I am a big panthers fan and I recently noticed a post that Aaron Kampman was not very happy playing his new position playing linebacker in the new 3-4 defensive scheme that the packers are installing and well I had a brilliant idea for a trade and wanted to know what your thoughts are on the possibility of the chances of this trade taking place. I am think that because Peppers would like to play that position and Kampman had made a name for himself as a DE that maybe there could be a trade between Green Bay and Carolina.
Pat Yasinskas: To be clear, I've not heard any talk about this possible trade, but it does make some sense. But trades aren't all that common in the NFL and I'm not sure the Packers would have that much interest in Peppers and the prospect of paying him a fortune.
sensiblefan in Detroit writes: Pat, Not sure if you've gotten a chance to look at Scott Reynolds' Fab 5 on Pewter Report but Fab #2 is VERY enlightening concerning the DT position in Jim Bates' scheme. It seems that the technique required to play the position has been truly downgraded from the Warren Sapp-like talent level necessary to play the Tampa 2. The requisite skills to play the position appear to be: be 300 lbs...and that's it; there's no thinking or even penetration required. I'd venture to say that the DT position is not really an issue anymore and passing on Peria Jerry and Ziggy Hood was not as egregious as most Buc fans (including myself) thought.
Pat Yasinskas: As always, Scott Reynolds makes a good point. Jim Bates is looking for guys to eat up space. The Bucs don't need a superstar defensive tackle, but I'd like to see them get one more guy with experience because Roy Miller has none, Chris Hovan is aging and Ryan Sims is ordinary.
Craig in Atlanta writes: hey Pat, i have been a falcons fan my whole life, good times and bad. i have, along with the rest of atlanta, fallen in love with mat ryan, but there is this concern in the back of my head that he could just be a rookie mistake. part of me thinks he could be the next Tom Brady, or Payton Manning, but another part of me thinks he could be the next cris wienkee, or joey harrington. what are your thoughts and do you have my same concern?
Pat Yasinskas: I understand your concern, but think about this: Chris Weinke and Joey Harrington never even came close to playing like Matt Ryan did last year. Ryan is the real deal and he's got a good offense around him. It's even better than last year with Tony Gonzalez on board.
GFalcons in Miami FL writes: Hey Pat how you doing? I'm concern everybody's talking about the corners the Falcons have but nobody is talking about Chris Houston are starting corner from last year.
Pat Yasinskas: In this case, it's a good thing nobody's talking about Chris Houston. It means he's set at one starting spot while Brent Grimes, Chevis Jackson, Chris Owens and Von Hutchins compete for the other one.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Let's hope Atlanta coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have an easier time deciding what to do with the No. 24 pick than our readers did. As I went through the votes for the Falcons in our readers' mock draft, I actually had to go back and do a recount because the margin between the winner and the second-place finisher was only two votes.
We'll let a few readers announce the pick.
Steve Salvo in North Haven writes: The Falcons should take LB Clay Matthews. This was hard because there's a lot of players we could take, Cushing, Delmas, English etc. Matthews will help finish out our starting LB core for next year which'll leave us with Peterson, Lofton, and Matthews. Clay Matthews fits the Tom Dimitroff type player("tough hombre") as I've heard him say, which, is smart, consistent, and hard-nosed.Joe in Atlanta writes: The Falcons should take Clay Matthews. They definitely need to select a defensive player here. The front office is character driven, and after Michael Vick will shy away from anyone with character issues, which would eliminate Vontae Davis. Matthews versatility would enable him to step in and fill multiple holes in the Falcons defense.
Jason in Lexington, Ky., writes: The Falcons should take USC OLB Clay Matthews. Why? Because they need another strong, young OLB and while I would probably draft Cushing before Matthews (assuming Curry is long gone) I believe CM will be a great addition to the defense.
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, Matthews edged out Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas by two votes. Matthews' USC teammate and fellow linebacker Brian Cushing also was within a dozen votes of the top two, although some of you think Cushing will be off the board before the Falcons pick.
There also was fairly strong support for defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and defensive end Michael Johnson. There also were about 15 votes for tight end Brandon Pettigrew, but those came before Thursday afternoon's trade for Tony Gonzalez.