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Massaquoi in line to assume bulk of Beirmann's snaps

The SportsXchange

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons could become the only NFL team with a pair of starting defensive ends from Troy.

With the season-ending injury to Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Osi Umenyiora could both be in the starting lineup for the Falcons going forward.

Massaquoi, a fifth round pick out of Troy, is in his second season with the Falcons. He played sparingly as a rookie in 2012. Umenyiora was a key free-agent pickup from the New York Giants over the offseason.

"Jonathan Massaquoi has a very similar skill set in terms of height, weight and speed that Kroy has," Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday. "We've got some other guys that have played linebacker for us in the preseason that will step into that role as well."

Malliciah Goodman could also be in for more action.

"Malliciah is a big and long guy," Smith said. "He can get into passing lanes."

Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing suffered season-ending injuries against the St. Louis Rams and were placed on injured reserve.

Biermann, who left the game via a cart, tore the Achilles tendon in his right foot. The injury was announced during the game as an ankle injury.

Ewing suffered a separated shoulder on the first drive of the game.

"They will not be on the (injured reserve list) where you can come back," Smith said.

Massaquoi played 45 of 77 (58 percent) defensive snaps and Goodman played 25 snaps (32 percent) against St. Louis.

"Jonathan snaps were up significantly," Smith said. "Those guys are going to get an opportunity to step in and help us win some football games. I believe that they will. As I say many times, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. We've got some guys that we expect are going to step up and make some plays for us."

Stansly Maponga, a rookie fifth round pick from Texas Christian, has also practiced in Biermann's hybrid role. He's recovering from ankle surgery and has been inactive for the first two games.

Biermann will be difficult to replace. He was playing a hybrid defensive end and linebacker role that made it challenging for the opposition to tell if the Falcons were in a 3-4 or a 4-3 alignment.

"Well, we have a backup at every position," Smith said. "When we put our packages in, the backups are going to have to step up and make the plays that we anticipate they are capable of making."

A couple of players will be needed to replace Biermann.

"There is a role for a defensive end for when Kroy was playing defensive end," Smith said. "There is a role for one of the linebackers for when he was playing linebacker."

Smith met with Ewing early Monday morning. He has had had a tough time with injuries since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Wisconsin. He suffered a season-ending knee injury last season and missed most of training camp with an undisclosed injury.

"I just told him, hey 'we just have got to get you healthy,'" Smith said. "March and April will roll around, we'll reconnect and get going moving forward."

Jason Snelling played some fullback and halfback against the Rams. He'll be Ewing's main replacement, and along with Jacquizz Rodgers will continue to backup Steven Jackson.

"Jason stepped in yesterday and did some very good things," Smith said. "He had the touchdown run. He had the nice catch on the third down-and-one. We've got a number of guys that roles will change.

--If Sean Weatherspoon (foot) is slowed at linebacker, rookie Joplo Bartu figures to pick up his playing time. He started and played extensively in the Falcons' nickel package against the Rams.

"In the preseason, we used him exclusively one game and we wanted to see how he handled it," Smith said. "He earned the opportunity to go out there and play in our (nickel) package. I thought he did a good job. He made a great tackle there early on the first drive when they were backed up. It was a text book open-field tackle. I think he will continue to get more reps."
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