After three disappointing seasons, Falcons DE Jamaal Anderson still had a chance to keep his starting job heading into training camp this year. Atlanta planned to use him the same way it did in 2009, when he started at defensive end and moved inside on passing downs, clearing a spot for backup Kroy Biermann to rush off the edge. Biermann, however, outplayed Anderson in the preseason and earned the starting nod at left end.
Biermann, a fifth-round pick in '08, told PFW he's "not 100 percent sure" what made the coaches decide to give him the chance to start, but he said he's happy to have the opportunity.
"It's an honor," he said in an interview Sept. 9. "I'm happy they see good things in me and I'm glad that they have given me a chance to continue to grow and be a part of this team."
More than anything, the role changes for Anderson and Biermann had to do with production.
Anderson, the eighth overall pick in '07, has just 2½ sacks in 44 games since entering the league, but he's nearly 30 pounds heavier than Biermann, who made five sacks last season and three in three preseason games this year. Anderson's great size makes him tougher to move vs. the run, but Biermann improved that part of his game enough to give the coaching staff faith that he can handle playing every down.
"I think coming in as a rookie, I struggled a little more vs. the run," Biermann said. "Part of that was size. Part of that was knowledge of the game, going against guys who had been in the league for a while and kind of knew tricks of the trade. I think I've improved quite a bit (vs.) the run. (Defensive line coach) Ray (Hamilton) has done a great job of helping me (vs.) the pass."
With Lawrence Sidbury, Chauncey Davis and Anderson set to back up Biermann and starting DRE John Abraham, there will continue to be competition for reps as the season unfolds.
"We're going to have a great rotation," Biermann said. "They're going to move us in and out. We're going to have fresh legs.
"There's good competition on the D-line between all of us. We help each other and we improve each other and we push each other."
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