Babineaux the unsung hero of Falcons' defensive line

FLOWERY BRANCH — For someone so quiet, Jonathan Babineaux makes a lot of noise.

The tackle has grown into a disruptive force in the middle of the Falcons’ defensive line. Ends John Abraham and free-agent signee Ray Edwards grab much of the attention, but Babineaux might be the unsung hero of the unit.

Defensive end and good friend Chauncey Davis described Babineaux as ‘very quiet — on and off the field.’ However, his play speaks volumes.

“He really helps the ends out because if you don’t have a good inside presence, someone who can push the pocket up inside so the quarterback can’t just step up inside when he wants to, the ends wouldn’t get very many sacks,” Falcons defensive line coach Ray Hamilton said. “He does a good job of keeping the quarterback from moving up in the pocket.”

Babineaux, a second-round draft pick from Iowa in 2005, has steadily improved in his six seasons. He finished with 31 tackles, including four sacks, last season, according to statistics kept by the coaching staff. That was fourth among Falcons defensive lineman. Six of his tackles were for a loss.

Babineaux credits a stable coaching staff, in place for a fourth season, for his progress.

“We had two different coaches prior and two different schemes,” Babineaux said. “This scheme that I’m in now, I feel free. I feel they utilize my talent, letting me get on the edge of guys and letting me create disruption in the backfield. I have a good time out there doing it.”

Babineaux has 254 tackles, 18 sacks, one interception, seven forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries in his career. One of those fumble recoveries came in the end zone last season against the Seahawks for his only career touchdown.

In 2009, Babineaux led the Falcons with six sacks and had a career-high 58 tackles. The previous year he ranked fourth in the NFL in tackles for a loss with 9.5, according to STATS, Inc.

“It is my responsibility to do my job every time I step on the field,” Babineaux said. “They gave me the opportunity, and every time I come out here I take advantage of it. I work my butt off every year to get better.”

The Falcons had trouble against the pass last season. They ranked 22nd in the NFL in the category. Against the rush, it was a different story. They ranked 10th in the league, allowing 105.9 yards per game on the ground. Babineaux’s presence in the middle was one reason why the unit was so successful.

According to Hamilton, Babineaux has an uncommon ability as a football player. He can take what he learns in practice and apply it in games. It’s not something every player can do.

“He works hard every day, every play,” Hamilton said. “Then in the game he plays the same way. Some guys work hard in practice but in the game they can’t take it to the next level. He does that. The small little details about his position, he soaks all that in and learns in and does it. Some guys will learn something but are scared to try it in a game.”

Hamilton said Babineaux also is aided by his knowledge of the opposing offensive schemes.

Babineaux doesn’t consider himself the unsung hero of the defensive line — just a member of a “family.”

“My role is to be disruptive, get pressure on the quarterback, anchor the inside and try to make a lot of plays in the backfield,” he said. “We always have to be on the same page because we rely on each other play in and play out. We may have a stunt with the end coming inside, and I have to come around and contain. We swap positions when we do stunts, so we all have to be accountable to each other.”

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