Observation deck: Defense has work to do

The absence of Michael Vick will place even more pressure on Altanta's defense, as well as its wide receivers, writes Len Pasquarelli.

Originally Published: July 27, 2007
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Five observations from Atlanta Falcons training camp, gleaned from the team's July 26 practices:

1. Defense not resting
Since the day the Falcons hired coach Bobby Petrino as the successor to Jim Mora, most of the attention has focused on the team's offense. And justifiably so, given the results that Petrino enjoyed at the college level, particularly during his four seasons at the University of Louisville, in designing a high-octane attack. But the defense, which statistically ranked No. 22 overall in the NFL in 2006 and 29th versus the pass, also needed considerable upgrading.

Even before the loss of quarterback Michael Vick, the Falcons were going to have to get a lot better at stopping opponents, and that's even more critical now. Petrino made a terrific hire in long-time NFL defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, a guy who knows the ropes, and who has molded top 10 defenses in the past. But as Thursday's practice indicated, Zimmer will face some challenges in cobbling together a respectable unit here. Neither of the team's projected starting tackles, run-stuffer nonpareil Grady Jackson (conditioning) and pass-rush ace Rod Coleman (quadriceps surgery), was able to work.


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