Originally written August 12, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Defensive end Osi Umenyiora played 14 snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals last Thursday in the Falcons first preseason game.In his first one of the game, Umenyiora was standing up on the left side like an outside linebacker -- a technique that Umenyiora had said he "never" employed before arriving in training camp this year.Falcons head coach Mike Smith said on Monday that he thinks talk of whether Umenyiora, the team's prized free-agent signing on the defensive side of the ball, is playing from his usual three-point stance or from a standing position is "overblown".While that's possible, what's not overblown is the Falcons plan on using multiple fronts this coming season -- perhaps even more so than last year -- and for them to be effective, Umenyiora is going to have to have a comfort level when he's used in different ways than he was in his first nine seasons with the New York Giants, when he amassed 75 sacks and won two Super Bowls."It was cool," Umenyiora said of those plays on Thursday when he stood up. I enjoyed it. It was something I'm going to try and do more and more so I get completely comfortable with it. It's something I'm going to have to do in this defensive, obviously, because it makes a lot of things real easy if I'm standing up. I'm able to see the whole field. That's what's going to be asked of me and that's what I have to do."Earlier in training camp, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said that Umenyiora was being taught to stand up mostly as a technique for defending the read option. However, on Thursday against the Bengals -- a team that does not run the read option -- Umenyiora even dropped back in coverage on one play after starting the play standing up."I've done some before," Umenyiora said of dropping into coverage. Falcons secondary coach Tim Lewis was our defensive coordinator in New York (from 2004 to 2006) and he did some zone pressures and things of that nature. I did some dropping then but it was not quite as extensive as it is now but I'm picking it up. (Defensive assistant Mark Collins), the guy who teaches us on the D-line all the coverages, he's doing a very good job of explaining it to me."Umenyiora later added, "Coach Nolan's scheme is so detailed I think if you do exactly what he's telling you, youll be most successful that way."At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Umenyiora is the size of some outside linebackers -- Dallas' DeMarcus Ware, for example, is listed at 6-4, 258. So it's not so much a question of whether Umenyiora possesses the physical skills to do it -- the Falcons coaching staff most likely wouldn't ask him to if it thought he didn't possess them -- it's more under the category of teaching an old dog new tricks, so to speak. The Falcons on rare occasions used John Abraham last season in zone blitz-type of situations and now Umenyiora has inherited Abraham's former role.Smith said he thought Umenyiora did "very good" last Thursday on the plays on which the Falcons asked him to stand up."Defensive ends in this league, whether you're playing a 4-3 or a 3-4, will stand up at times," Smith said. "I thought he did a very nice job. It's something he's not done a whole lot of but in our scheme with the flexibility we want to have and not identifying whos rushing and who's not, it gives us an opportunity to work on our disguises."In those three series that Umenyiora played with the Falcons' first-team defense against the Bengals' first-team offense, Atlanta held its opponent scoreless. One of those disguises caused confusion among the Cincinnati offensive line and forced the Bengals into a false start penalty on third-and-7 that ultimately helped the Falcons to get a stop.Another test looms on Thursday in Baltimore against a better a quarterback in Joe Flacco, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, and against an offense that also employs a strong running game behind Ray Rice. As the NFL preseason goes, the Falcons' first-teamers will play more on Thursday and Umenyiora said "the more reps, the better"."I think were getting better, Umenyiora said. We're picking everything up the way it's supposed to be."For him to be the Falcons need him to be, they better.Notes: Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was limited in practice with an injured finger. Smith said Weatherspoon most likely will be held out of Thursday's game but should return to practice over the weekend. Smith also said that he expects wide receiver Julio Jones (sore hamstring) to play on Thursday after two days of full practice. Jones was held out against the Bengals as a precautionary measure.
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