One player I couldn’t ignore while calling the Falcons/Chiefs preseason game on television last week was Kroy Biermann.
If you look at some of the great pass rushers in the NFL right now — Jared Allen, Trent Cole and Elvis Dumervil — all of them entered the league as mid-to-late-round draft picks, either in the fourth or fifth round. None of them set the league on fire at first, either.
But all of those players have some traits in common — the motor they have for the game, and a fire that fuels their play. Those things are always there. These guys aren’t one-dimensional players, as they understand that by stopping the run, they gain a luxury to rush the passer.
I believe that Biermann can be one of those players.
He made the Falcons roster as a sixth-round pick, but didn’t have much of an impact when he got on the field. Last season, he was used as a situational pass rusher and had some impact with 5.0 sacks. This season, I think he can make a big impact. I’m expecting double-digits in sacks.
Biermann made his presence felt early against the Chiefs by beating the right tackle to force a fumble by Matt Cassell. The Falcons desperately need someone opposite John Abraham, and I see Biermann as that guy.
- Even though Thomas Jones will start for the Chiefs, I see Jamal Charles as a very unique player. He is a rare back in this league in that he can gain yards even if his offensive line isn’t playing well. He’s incredibly explosive, and can start and stop on a dime. Charles has the ability to gain 1,200-1,400 yards without starting for the Chiefs.
- Another player not to ignore for the Chiefs is rookie Dexter McCluster, who will be a match-up nightmare for defenses. McCluster is unbelievably explosive, and the Chiefs can use him in so many different ways — in the slot, as a running back and as a returner. As small as he is, he’s just a football player, and the Chiefs have to get the ball to him. McCluster could be as close to Brian Westbrook in his prime as we’ve seen. Charlie Weis has a fun chess piece to work with.
- One of the question marks for the Falcons after they drafted Matt Ryan was their ability to build an offensive line to protect their new franchise quarterback. The Falcons line is starting its third year together, and they’re the nastiest offensive line in football. They love to play, and they’re a strength of the team in every way. Michael Turner is in shape and Ryan will be better, but it all starts up front, where the Falcons will be very good again this season. The leader of the line is Harvey Dahl, one of the best guards in football right now. This is certainly top-10 line, maybe top five.
- Speaking of Turner, he’s the one free agent the Chargers wish they never got rid of. He had the great year in 2008, but after 376 carries, there was no way to know when his body would recover after that season. That type of season impacts the way you train for the following season. Turner was never in shape for the following camp, started off heavy, and then had a high ankle sprain. This season, I see a lighter and leaner Turner, who can again run away from people because he’s in shape. He touched the ball the first four plays against the Chiefs, and I expect to see a lot more of that this year, including more involvement in the passing game.
— Brian Baldinger