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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Atlanta Falcons flashback profile: defensive tackle Jumpy Geathers

For every NFL player, fan and even us media types, there will always be that one player we watched growing up that helped us gain a bigger appreciation for the game of football beyond its X’s and O’s. For me that player was Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle James “Jumpy” Geathers.

Now when I say we gain a bigger appreciation for the game, I’m talking about that point in time when you start to see beyond the big plays and see more than just 22 guys lining up against each other on the field.  You start to see the game-within-a-game.

Like it’s cool to see a wide receiver catch a 50-yard bomb or watch a running back find a seam in the defense and take it the distance. It’s even cool to watch a cornerback step in front of a pass intended for the opposing team’s receiver and take it all the way back for a score but what about the individual matchups that had to happen in order to make those plays possible?

Okay, so now that you know what I’m talking about I guess the obvious question is: why Jumpy Geathers?
Well being from Georgia I had the misfortune of watching Falcons games on Sunday but for a team that lost a lot, the Falcons were pretty entertaining. This of course was back during the days of Andre Rison, Deion “Prime Time” Sanders and the Run-and-Shoot offense.

Rison was one of the best receivers in the league during that time but Sanders was absolutely the best in the league at his position. Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators alike feared Sanders and quarterbacks rarely threw his way.

But every once in a while Sanders was able to bate a quarterback into thinking that the receiver he was covering was open. And every quarterback foolish enough to fall for Sanders’s tricks paid the price as Sanders would use his Olympic-level speed to step in front of the pass and take it back for a score.

Sanders would then add insult to injury by performing his signature high-stepping move while jogging the last few yards into the end zone.

The highlights are the only things I remember about Sanders’s play though. I remember the exciting punt returns and the interceptions he returned for scores but never the matchup that allowed him to make those picks.

But Geathers’s play along the Falcons defensive line was what made me start to see the more technical aspects of the game.

Geathers didn’t join the Falcons until Sanders’s last season with the team. Before joining the Falcons, Geathers had played nine seasons with the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins.

Now Geathers was unusually built for someone playing the defensive tackle position. Most coaches looked for players who were stouter and lower to the ground than the six-foot, seven-inch Geathers but Geathers developed a technique that made him a feared interior pass-rusher throughout his career.

Utilizing his height and massive strength, Geathers was able to effectively get to the quarterback using what I remember people referring to as a “forklift" technique.

Simply put, Geathers would line up against an offensive guard who was shorter than him and lift the poor guy off the ground. Geathers would then drive the guard back into his own quarterback or at least far enough back so that Geathers could grab the quarterback with his unusually long arms.

I remember hearing the game announcers talk about his unusual technique as they watched it on the replays and from that point on I was determined to know more about some of the other individual matchups that make the game of football so interesting.

Needless to say, Geathers ended up becoming one of my favorite players to watch. He was already in his 30’s when he joined the Falcons and usually came off the bench as a situational pass-rusher but he was super-effective in that role and made it much easier for Chris Doleman and Chuck Smith to rush the passer from their defensive end positions.

Watching players like Geathers who find ways to make themselves effective despite being advanced in age or even sometimes having less talent than most of the guys they lineup against on Sundays helped me to appreciate the game more.

So when I get to watch guys like the undersized John Randle who played defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings or a guy like the over-achieving Wes Welker play wide receiver for the New England Patriots, I have more of an appreciation for how they have become the best at their craft through their hard work and solid techniques.

And I have Geathers to thank for that. Geathers ended up having two of his three best sack totals during his time in Atlanta.

Unfortunately for Geathers the Falcons were still a sub-.500 team during the three years he played there.

There were a lot of good players who played for Atlanta during that time though and Geathers was one of them. Unfortunately there weren’t enough good players there to help the Falcons curb their losing ways but like I said, at least they were interesting to watch.

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.
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