FLOWERY BRANCH - The Atlanta Falcons have a big hole to fill on the defensive line after first-round pick Peria Jerry sustained a season-ending knee injury in a victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The rookie defensive tackle tore up his left knee in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 28-20 victory, which improved the Falcons to 2-0 for only the seventh time in the team's 44-year history. He was placed on injured reserve Monday.
Thomas Johnson, who had not played in the NFL since 2006 until making the Falcons' roster, will move up to a starting spot.
'It's very unfortunate for Peria,' coach Mike Smith said. 'It's a very, very violent game on the offensive and defensive lines. We're going to miss him, but we've go to move forward.'
The Falcons already were thin along the defensive line, so the loss of Jerry is especially damaging. Johnson will move up to start alongside Jonathan Babineaux, and seventh-round pick Vance Walker was signed off the practice squad. Atlanta also has Trey Lewis, who missed all of 2008 with a knee injury and has yet to play this season.
Chauncey Davis has been used mostly at end, but he can move inside to provide the sort of quickness Jerry provided in passing situations.
Perry has struggled with durability in both college and during his brief career with the Falcons. At Mississippi, he missed four games as a freshman because of an ankle injury, underwent offseason foot surgery after appearing in eight games as a sophomore, and he missed the 2008 season opener after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Since being selected 24th overall by the Falcons, Jerry missed time during a May minicamp because of sprained right knee. He also left the season-opening victory over Miami with a chest injury.
Now this, the most serious injury yet.
Jerry had not made much of an impact on the stat sheet - one assisted tackle and one quarterback hit in Atlanta's first two games - but the Falcons expected him to play a more prominent role as the season went along.
'Anytime you lose a player - and especially a first-round pick and a guy who's the starter - it's something you have to address,' Smith said. 'But one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity.'