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Biermann steps forward as starting DE for Falcons

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP)

Ray Edwards' loss is Kroy Biermann's gain for the Atlanta Falcons.

Biermann took over as a starting defensive end earlier this week after the Falcons cut Edwards, but the move was a bit ceremonial.

Biermann had already started three times at left end ahead Edwards, whose goodwill expired after he managed no sacks in nine games this year and just 3.5 in 16 games last season.

Right end John Abraham, the NFL's active career sacks leader, believes Biermann deserves the job full-time.

''He'll do whatever they want him to do,'' Abraham said. ''He's just a great all-around guy and he has no stipulations about what he will and will not do.''

That didn't seem to be the case with Edwards, who had a combined 16.5 sacks in his last two years before leaving Minnesota as a free agent.

Edwards' inability to fit in, however, no longer concerns tackle Jonathan Babineaux, the longest-tenured Falcons defensive player at eight years.

''You've just got to move on, you know?'' Babineaux said. ''It's unfortunate that the situation happened. I don't know to what extent or why it happened, but I'm a player. I do what I'm told. That's why we have management, GMs and a team president to take care of stuff like that.''

Biermann, who started 14 games in 2010, originally lost the left end job last year when the NFL lockout ended and Atlanta signed Edwards to a contract with $11 million guaranteed.

But after watching Biermann flourish in the scheme designed by first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Falcons decided that Edwards was no longer needed in a diminished role.

Biermann, who's never missed a game since getting drafted in the fifth round of '08, is eager to show that he's worthy of the promotion. He has eight tackles for lost yardage and two sacks.

''I approach my job the same every day and that is to come here, work hard, get better and do whatever I can to help this team win,'' Biermann said. ''Being asked to do multiple positions and cover kicks and play the game of football, however I can contribute and help this organization, I'm glad to do it.''

Cliff Matthews and rookie Jonathan Massaquoi also are likely play additional snaps when Atlanta (8-1) hosts Arizona (4-5) on Sunday.

Matthews has earned playing time by making the most of his chances in practice. A seventh-round pick from South Carolina last year, Matthews was inactive for every game as a rookie and has been used sparingly in just four games this season.

Massaquoi, a fifth-round pick from Troy, has been active for just one game. He is listed as the third-string right end with fourth-year veteran Lawrence Sidbury second-string.

''They are all young guys that have not done the job yet,'' Nolan said. ''They are talented young guys. They work well in practice. They've shown the ability to at least get the shot to do the job of playing defensive end. But all three of them are guys that we're hoping to develop, and we've got to start that process at some time so it looks like it will be it.''

Edwards' departure means that the Falcons use a committee to complement Abraham, their only elite pass rusher since left end Patrick Kerney signed with Seattle as a free agent in 2007.

Kerney left Atlanta as the franchise's No. 3 career leader in sacks. The Falcons drafted Jamaal Anderson as his successor, but he never came close to justifying getting drafted eighth overall in 2007.

Anderson managed just 3.5 sacks in four seasons, lost the job to Biermann in Week 2 of 2010 and was cut in training camp last year.

''I really don't worry about who's on my other side so much anymore,'' Abraham said. ''Being 13 years in the league, not having I guess a big-name guy beside really doesn't matter. My teammates here have done a great job and have helped me on the field. I know my main priority is to get to the quarterback so I really don't rationalize about having anyone else around me.''

Now it's Biermann's turn. He has played a variety of roles under Nolan, even lining up deep at safety for snaps that confused quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Michael Vick in wins over Denver and Philadelphia.

''It's been fun and it's something obviously they wouldn't be doing if they didn't feel comfortable,'' Biermann said. ''They're not going to put anybody out there in the position that they're going to make a fool out of them. It was kind of a touch-and-go thing on both sides. They had to feel me out, and I had to feel the scheme out. Things have continued to evolve, and it's been good so far.''

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Follow George Henry at www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Falcons, John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux, Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi

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