Falcons look for big things from Peria Jerry

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
8:30
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NEW ORLEANS -- When the Atlanta Falcons drafted Peria Jerry in the first round in 2009, they thought the defensive tackle would be a force by his third season.

That hasn’t happened -- and we’ll explain why in a minute -- but the Falcons still believe Jerry will be a force in 2011. Yeah, that may seem a little strange since Jerry spent last season as a backup to 2010 third-round pick Corey Peters.

But there’s much more to this story and that’s why the Falcons are expecting much more from Jerry next season.

“We have big expectations for him to continue to evolve into a legitimate contributor for where we drafted him,’’ Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said during a break in the NFL owners meeting. “This is a big year for Peria, as we all know.’’

Jerry’s first two seasons have been far from big. Jerry injured his knee early in his rookie season and returned last preseason. But he wasn’t able to claim a starting role. The Falcons said that’s because Jerry still was recovery from his injury.

“Peria was healthy enough to be on our 45-man roster week in and week out, but he was never 100 percent,’’ coach Mike Smith said. “I believe he got stronger as the season went on. We saw progress from him from week to week, but I’m excited about this season for him. You hear so often that the second year after a knee injury is when they’re really back at 100 percent. They might be back on the field in a year, but they’re not really back until they’ve had a season under their belt.’’

Dimitroff admitted the Falcons went into last season knowing they might have to proceed slowly with Jerry.

“Any time you have a big man having a significant knee injury, it’s going to take time,’’ Dimitroff said. “We were very aware of that and he was going to have to be worked back into the rotation. Corey Peters stepped up and really hung in well for us. That allowed us to step back a little on Peria and make sure he was healed properly. A lot of people are wondering how Peria’s coming along. I can tell you he is a guy who is very focused on returning to his full ability and we think that will happen.’’

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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