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Nolan finds promise in struggling Atlanta defense

AP - Sports

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Mike Nolan knows his second season as Falcons defensive coordinator has been a borderline disaster.

He's not sure if coach Mike Smith and Atlanta's front office will want him back next year, but the uncertainty hasn't stopped Nolan from tinkering with his personnel and schemes to find the right formula.

It hasn't been easy. Veteran defenders Asante Samuel and Osi Umenyiora have struggled all season. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed seven games with a foot injury, and defensive end Kroy Biermann was placed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 3.

Rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and undrafted rookie free agent linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu are starters.

Nolan says he's disappointed, but not surprised, that his defense ranks among the NFL's worst.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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