Falcons DT Peria Jerry went from being a starter at the outset of his rookie year to a sub-package player off the bench this season, but GM Thomas Dimtroff told PFW Jerry's current role shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that the team is unhappy with him. It has more to do with his battle to return to form after knee surgery for an undisclosed injury and the lack of opportunities the team's nickel package has had early on.
"(Jerry) is coming along well," Dimitroff said. "We need to be smart as an organization and properly monitor his reps. He is a tough and competitive defensive lineman and we all know how violent it is inside. He is starting in our sub package, but we just want to make sure he is completely healed and comfortable before increasing his reps."
Rookie third-round pick Corey Peters is starting ahead of Jerry, who had his rookie year cut short in the second game of the regular season when he suffered an injury that landed him on injured reserve. Jerry, the 24th overall pick in 2009, hasn't been listed on the injury report at any point this season, but it doesn't appear that the team is too concerned that it's taking him some time to knock off the rust after he sat out the first two preseason games and was limited for much of training camp this year.
Increased depth at defensive tackle has helped the Falcons allow Jerry to progress at his own pace.
"We are encouraged by Peria's recovery, and he still plays a prominent role in our defense," Dimitroff said. "I think by halfway through the season, you will be seeing more of him."
Falcons head coach Mike Smith, a former defensive coordinator who is said to look quite favorably upon Jerry, said late last month that he envisions Jerry playing 20 snaps each week, but may get up to 30 snaps a game before too long. Jerry has been credited with two tackles through five games.
Peters and Jonathan Babineaux have started at tackle in each of the past four games. Jerry and Vance Walker are involved in the rotation, and DL Jamaal Anderson will shift inside at times as well. Trey Lewis started at tackle in Week One, but he has been a healthy scratch in every game since then.