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Falcons draft no DL, just one OL

POSTED: May 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA — General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have promised to give the Atlanta Falcons a physical brand of football.

The Falcons, coming off a 4-12 season that led to an overhauled front office, might surprise some critics under the leadership of their new GM and coach.

But after fans watched Atlanta suffer so many breakdowns on both sides of the line last year, Dimitroff and Smith understand why some might question the decision to use none of the team's 11 draft picks on a defensive lineman and just one on an offensive lineman.

Dimitroff considered the defensive line to be the NFL draft's most depleted position once high picks like Virginia's Chris Long, LSU's Glenn Dorsey, Southern Cal's Sedrick Ellis and Florida's Derrick Harvey came off the Falcons' draft board.

With John Abraham and Jamaal Anderson locked in as starters and Chauncey Davis the primary backup at the end positions, the Falcons decided they had done enough in free agency at tackle by signing Kindal Moorehead and Rashad Moore to work in a rotation with Jonathan Babineaux, Trey Lewis and Montavious Stanley.

"If they (tackles) weren't there in the first round going hard after it, it really fell off," Dimitroff said Sunday night. "Not to mention there were some guys on that list along the defensive line, to be quite honest with you, weren't fitting in with our style or with our Falcon fit. We're talking about having guys that are about the team concept, who are about getting better and having a passion for the game."

On the offensive line, Atlanta traded into the first round to take Southern Cal tackle Sam Baker, which gives the Falcons an anchor on the left side for the next few years.

But injuries last year to tackles Todd Weiner and Wayne Gandy and guard Kynan Forney caused major problems in pass protection. The Falcons cut Gandy, a 14-year veteran, as the starting left tackle, a job that will now be settled between Baker and free agent signee Pat McCoy.

Center Todd McClure and left guard Justin Blalock will return as starters. At right tackle, Tyson Clabo re-signed and will open mini-camp next month No. 1 on the depth chart while Weiner rehabs his knee.

"I think that group took some hits last year in terms of injuries, and they didn't play together very long," Smith said. "They were mixed and matched all through the season, and as a football coach I can tell you the one part of your team that really needs the unit working together is the offensive line."

After making three picks on Saturday (quarterback Matt Ryan, Baker and linebacker Curtis Lofton), the Falcons had three spots in the third round Sunday to draft LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson, receiver Harry Douglas of Louisville and Cal safety Thomas DeCoud.

In the fifth round, they selected two linebackers, Robert James of Arizona State and Kroy Biermann of Montana. Atlanta took Georgia running back Thomas Brown in the sixth round and used two seventh-round picks on Arizona cornerback Wilrey Fontenot and LSU tight end Keith Zinger.

Of the second-day picks, Jackson has a chance to start at left cornerback opposite right-side starter Chris Houston. Douglas could take a lot of snaps at wideout and flanker, and Thomas will compete for the starting job at free safety.



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