FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Peria Jerry won't go so far as to say he's the missing link to an improved interior pass rush in Atlanta this year.
Yet, as a former No. 24 overall draft pick, Jerry believes he hasn't come to close to maximizing his NFL potential.
If Jerry does so this season, the Falcons' defense would likely solve its primary concern of training camp: improving its pass rush so it won't have another disappointing finish.
"I set my goals real high and I'm going to try and achieve them," Jerry said Monday. "For the most part, I'm going to keep doing my job within the scheme, keep working and see what happens."
Atlanta finished 13-3 last year, won the NFC South and earned a No. 1 playoff seed, but the Green Bay Packers ended the Falcons' season by embarrassing the home team by 27 points on Jan. 15.
A 17-14 loss to New Orleans in Week 16 exposed weaknesses in Atlanta's personnel and scheme as Saints quarterback Drew Brees overcame two interceptions, eight penalties and seven punts by getting sacked just once and throwing for 296 yards.
Three weeks later, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers picked the Falcons apart, completing 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons' pass rush, just as it showed in the many times it whiffed on sacking Brees, couldn't keep Rodgers from moving his feet and completing passes inside and outside the pocket.
"We know we're a better defense than what we showed, but you've got to go out there and prove it," tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. "That day, we did just the opposite."
Since the start of training camp, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has shored up one weakness in the pass rush by signing left end Ray Edwards to a five-year contract that includes $11 million in guarantees. Edwards' presence is designed to help free Pro Bowl right end John Abraham of double-team and chip blocks and to keep reserves Kroy Biermann and Chauncey Davis, both of whom contribute on special teams, fresher.
Corey Peters, a third-round pick last year, beat out Jerry for a starting job, so Falcons line coach Ray Hamilton and coordinator Brian VanGorder decided to deploy Jerry primarily as a three-technique backup to Babineaux.
Jerry played in every game last year, but he knows he isn't paid first-round draft pick money to be a backup.
"It's always technique," Jerry said. "That's the biggest thing. You can do all those other things, but I just try to work on my step and hand placement and keep doing it so that it's natural to me."