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  1. That time of year where we'll hear information about moving up, down, and all around. But still news, from this morning's MMQB with Albert Breer: "So you’ve come for draft nuggets? Here are 10 for you… • I’m told the Bengals have maxed out their time with Burrow over the last few weeks, as they work to build a relationship with him. What does that mean? Well, each team is allowed to do three one-hour calls with each prospect per week. So every week, Cincinnati has done, yes, three one-hour calls with Burrow. If you listened to my podcast with Burrow’s trainer, Jordan Palmer, a few weeks back, you heard him say that the training for Burrow has been focused on getting him ready to play in Week 1. The amount of meetings he’s had with the team that’ll likely draft him can’t hurt in that regard either. • Maybe Washington won’t take Young with the second overall pick. But what I can say is they’ve been aggressive in cross-checking their information on him, and are poised to sit right where they are and take him second overall. Again, the tire-kicking on Tagovailoa made sense for more than one reason. First, you make sure that you’re not passing on, as one person there put it to me, “Michael Jordan.” Second, you might smoke out some offers, so you can better ascertain the value of the pick. My guess would be Young is too sure of a thing for them to pass on, much like his ex-teammate Nick Bosa was last year. Simmons, who took snaps all over the field for the Tigers, had seven sacks for Clemson last season. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports • Word’s been persistent that the Lions want to move the third pick. And it’s not that they don’t like the players there. More so, it’s that they’d like, say, Okudah or Isaiah Simmons at No. 5 or 6 with a few more picks to use down the line. It was pointed out to me that Lions GM Bob Quinn, over 21 NFL seasons, has never been with a team holding a top five pick. So his comfort level with moving down would be understandable, as would his desire to maximize the kind of asset he’s never had. • We’ve said that Simmons would be great in a Patriots-type of defense, and that makes the run of teams at No. 3, 4 and 5—all of which run New England defenses—a very interesting one. My sense is the Giants are considering him at No. 4 against the offensive tackles, and maybe Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (who has questions about his ability to make weight and his on-field consistency, despite his freakish ability) in particular. GM Dave Gettleman, of course, valued linebackers in Carolina, having paid Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis and drafted Shaq Thompson while he was there. And I know this about Gettleman: As he said after taking Saquon Barkley second overall, he firmly believes you have to get a generational, All-Pro type talent when you’re picking that high. Both Simmons and Becton have that potential. • Tagovailoa’s situation is fascinating. If the Lions can’t move the third pick, the Dolphins decide to pass on him in favor of Justin Herbert or even, say, Simmons or a tackle (which I think is wholly possible), and the Chargers don’t take him at 6… then what? Interestingly, it feels to me like Chargers GM Tom Telesco’s scouting report is an awfully important one for the Alabama quarterback right now. Few doubt his playing ability. But, as an old coach once said, the most important ability is availability, and the durability that’ll determine that remains a question mark here. • A player teams like more than the general public knows: Auburn DT Derrick Brown. He’s a very clean prospect with a high floor, and a lot of teams’ decision-makers would be surprised if he makes it past the Panthers at No. 7. I’d put the Jaguars down as another team that’s been connected to him, so much so that Jacksonville may get aggressive in trying to trade down if he’s gone when they pick at No. 9, to be better position to get a receiver or corner. • So we’ve got Detroit and Jacksonville as trade-down teams. I’d toss the Niners and Raiders in that mix too. The Raiders don’t have a second-rounder. The Niners, thanks to trades for Dee Ford and Emmanuel Sanders, don’t have a second-, a third- or a fourth-rounder. I’ve heard both teams would like to fill in the holes they have between picks there. And while San Francisco has the bigger gap (no picks between 31 and 156), they do have two first-rounders to work with, thanks to the DeForest Buckner trade. I’d say, at this point, it’s more likely that they move the 31st pick than the 13th. • The Niners could take a left tackle if one falls to them (I’ve heard they’d like to keep Mike McGlinchey on the right side long-term), but count them with the Raiders as teams that could be in play to pull the first receiver off the board. A couple teams mentioned to me that Jon Gruden is looking for, specifically, a ‘Z’ receiver and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy is the prototype for that (even if CeeDee Lamb’s a little more of the gritty type that Gruden likes). As for the Niners, Kyle Shanahan values speed, and has gotten a lot out of players like Taylor Gabriel and Marquise Goodwin in the past, and Bama’s Henry Ruggs would qualify as a supercharged version of that. • O.K., so who is looking at trading up? Three teams that seem to be investigating it pretty pointedly: Tampa, Denver and Atlanta. The Bucs and Broncos, I’ve heard, could be going up for one of the top four linemen (Becton, Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs and Andrew Thomas), making Jacksonville’s slot, at No. 9, a potential hotspot, given the needs the Browns and Jets have at 10 and 11. It’s not as clear what the Falcons would be pursuing, though GM Thomas Dimitroff has always, in the past, been more proactive than most in looking at the option of moving up. • It’s a relationship business, and there are rumblings that Kyler Murray has given the Arizona brass a glowing review of his former teammate Lamb. Would the Cardinals take one, given that they have DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk on their roster, and drafted three of them last year? I’m skeptical, particularly with how nicely a big-time right tackle like Wills would fit the bill. But it’s worth keeping an eye on anyway."
  2. https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/10/15/nfl-trade-deadline-buyers-sellers?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=themmqb&utm_medium=social I linked the whole article, but only pasted what applies to us. Trading Beasley (if someone would take him) is a way to get something from a huge nothing. Trading Hoop is something I'd never even considered.....and don't really want to. SELLERS Atlanta Falcons (1–5) Tradable Assets: EDGE Vic Beasley, TE Austin Hooper Beasley and Hooper are two players on expiring contracts who could be valuable in the right system. I’m not ready to turn the lights out on the Dan Quinn regime despite their truly puzzling performance in 2019. However, absent a minor winning streak in the coming weeks, they need to start thinking about their long-term financial plan and which players fit into that plan. Both could yield a solid return beyond the compensatory refund next year.
  3. Dan Quinn Mic’ing Up Defensive Players in Practice to Help Fix Communication Issues Mic’ing up players is often done for editorial purposes, but what about for educational purposes? The Falcons’ head coach is trying it out with his defense. By ROBERT KLEMKO August 15, 2019 Dan Quinn got the inspiration from an NFL Films clip: Buccaneers safety John Lynch, who was mic’d up during Super Bowl XXXVII against the Raiders, tips off fellow safety Dexter Jackson, then paces back towards his pre-snap position and yells across the field, “Dexter! Hey! Sluggo seam!” In the next shot, Jackson flies across the field and intercepts a Rich Gannon pass down the seam on the way to a Super Bowl MVP nod and a Tampa Bay victory. In 2016, when Lynch was a television broadcaster with FOX and Quinn a first-year head coach with the Falcons, Quinn asked Lynch to speak with select members of his defense about the importance of pre-snap communication and relaying any pertinent observations about the offense at all times. That message sunk in for then-rookie safety Keanu Neal and second-year safety Falcons Ricardo Allen as they became Atlanta’s most vocal defensive players. But when Neal tore his ACL in the 2018 season opener and Allen tore his Achilles’ tendon two games later, the Falcons defense lost its voice—and what followed was a precipitous drop from ninth in yards allowed in 2017 to 28th by the end of last season. Quinn had to find a way to make his defense talk. He thought of Lynch and that NFL Films clip. What if we mic up our own guys, not for publication on the team website, but for study purposes? “We’ve got all this cool technology and we're trying to find ways to use it,” Quinn says. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Lets take a shot.” He got the digital department on board to help set up the microphones (and to make sure it was clear that this was not for the website) and personally asked guys like linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Damontae Kazee to wear microphones during practice. And it really was an ask, not a job requirement, because how many people would be thrilled to wear a microphone for an entire workday? Said Quinn: “Guys say, ‘I’ll do it for the team, but I don’t want it for the website.’ They don’t want it out in the public but they’ll do it for their guys.” Last season Quinn began showing five minutes cut-ups during defensive meetings consisting entirely of pre-snap communication and the aftermath. Why did you say this? What impact did it have on the play? How would you respond to the other end of this communication? “Or, why the silence?” Quinn says. “Nothing to say here?” “I just feel like the best teams I’ve been a part of, it wasn’t just one person directing traffic,” Quinn says. “Even in man coverage, you have your assignment, but there are still calls you have to make. It’s not natural to talk on the field, but you have to share information.” Quinn mic’d a player up in a game for the first time last weekend when rookie fourth-round defensive end John Cominsky submitted to the scrutiny during his NFL debut in Miami. His session will air to a private audience or about 40 of his teammates this week. “This is the first time I've ever heard of this,” Ricardo Allen told The MMQB this week. “He’s always pushed [communication] but I’ve never seen anybody actually record it [during practice] and break it down before Coach.” Allen says he could rely on four or five teammates talking during pre-snap including himself before he tore his Achilles. In practice this preseason, that number has jumped to nine, including the often silent cornerbacks and defensive linemen. “The defensive linemen often feel like ‘If I can beat the guy in front of me, I’m good,’ and the corner feels like, ‘I’m on an island,’” Allen says. “But now people are thinking about how they can help their brother. “Just because we see a certain thing doesn’t mean you’re always going to be right. Maybe we call out their best play from a certain formation, and they call something different. Well, you go back to your technique and your job. The majority of the time you wont be right, but if you’re right six times out of 80, and you can make a pick or force a fumble, that stuff adds up. You only need to be right a couple times. You only need to be plus-1 or plus-2 in turnovers to give yourself a 75-80% chance of winning the game.” Quinn sees the defense-wide jump in communication as a silver lining in the Allen and Neal injuries (to be fair, Quinn sees the silver lining in most things). He’ll continue to record players throughout the season, focusing his attention on younger guys who have room to improve. After all, some of the veterans are a harder sell. “I don’t like being mic’d up,” Allen says. “They’ve asked me a couple times. I don’t know. I’m weird about it. I’m just working. I can’t think about everything I’m saying and whether it’s appropriate. It’s too much.” https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/08/15/falcons-defense-practice-microphones-dan-quinn
  4. Sixty-two players and one intrepid reporter got a crash course in Dan Quinn’s style of football last weekend, as Atlanta immersed its draft picks, rookie free agents and other hopefuls in the intricacies of play calls and coverages—and, most importantly, the philosophy of the hard-driving Falcons coach. By ANDY BENOIT May 15, 2019 Rookie minicamp offers a coaching staff the first chance to see and work with its new players, before the veterans arrive for OTAs. The Falcons held theirs this past weekend and gave us an all-access look. (Editor’s note: The names of plays in this story have been changed to preserve the team’s confidentiality.) DAY 1: THURSDAY 12:30 p.m. Dan Quinn’s Office The office of the fifth-year Falcons coach is set off to the right at the main stairs in the team’s headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga. From a desk outside the door, Sarah Hogan, Quinn’s right hand, points me inside There I find Quinn leaning against his standing desk, watching film. DMX and Snoop Dogg play in the background. I’m here to learn everything that players learn at rookie minicamp. Quinn and I sit at his small conference table and he produces a copy of the camp’s three-day schedule. He has highlighted much of it with hand-written labels indicating where I’ll go and when. He wants my experience to be as diverse as possible. “I hope you don’t mind me planning out so much of it,” he says. Yep, he’s an NFL coach. The MMQB 1:45 p.m. Amenities Building An airport shuttle pulls up to the entrance of the building, which sits between two dorms down a small hill from the practice fields on the Falcons campus. Fifteen players file out, ranging from college free agents to tryout guys to first-round guard Chris Lindstrom. (The Boston College product’s fellow first-round offensive lineman, and Senior Bowl buddy, Kaleb McGary, is on a separate shuttle.) Lindstrom is pulling a large suitcase in one hand and whatever you call the next size up from “giant” suitcase in the other. He must be bringing some of his own football gear, right? Nope; all equipment will be issued to these guys in 30 minutes. Lindstrom is just settling in for a four-week stretch of minicamps and OTAs. Players get quick medical checkups—boilerplate paperwork, blood pressure, etc.—right there in the amenities building. All are wearing athletic gear, except for Lindstrom (tan work jeans and Timberland boots) and one exceptionally eager hopeful dressed like he’s going to the office. 2:10 p.m. Equipment Room The players walk through the main building’s halls in uncomfortable silence; nobody knows each other yet. They pass a sign posted on the women’s restroom: “Women’s only restroom, all players please use men’s room.” The equipment room, which is adjacent to the locker room, has every NFL and major college helmet on display. Space-efficient floor-to-ceiling shelves that open and close at the turn of a wheel—as if forming a room-sized accordion—hold every piece of equipment imaginable. Many schools have sent over the specs for their players. Lindstrom is fitted with a temporary helmet; in a few days Riddell will come in and perform a 3D scan of his head for a permanent helmet. Earlier a test was performed on Lindstrom’s foot to help determine his best shoe. All drafted players and college free agents get such treatment. Lindstrom also tries on his gloves, which you wouldn’t think is worth mentioning except that the process is entertainingly slow. The gloves need broken-in. Encouragingly, though, the highly touted rookie gets the second glove on much quicker than the first. The MMQB 6:30 p.m. First Team Meeting Rap music blares even after all 62 players—seven draft picks, 16 rookie free agents, a handful of practice squad players still eligible for rookie camp, and the rest tryout guys—and 20 assistant coaches have taken their seats. Dozens from the front office and administrative staff stand in the back. We’re in the main meeting room. Quinn enters, the rap inadvertently creating a walk-up music effect. “Welcome to the Brotherhood,” he says. And then he jumps right in. “ Let’s go around, introduce yourself and share one thing about yourself. I’ll start. I’m Dan Quinn and I’m one of six kids in my family.” The players share; any tidbits that are not outright innocuous elicit reactions. To express satisfaction, coaches knock on the table, while many players—or just the same few over and over, it’s hard to tell—say “oooohh sh--” to show they’re impressed. Quinn runs through a few slides, introducing the team’s three pillars: Ball; Battle; Brotherhood. And then the club’s rules: 1. Protect the team 2. No complaining, no excuses 3. Be early Much of the meeting is dedicated to media training. New P.R. director David Bassity’s PowerPoint begins with this phrase: What question do you have for my answer? In other words, Bassity says, “You control the interview.” Quinn, with assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris playing reporter, demonstrates. His blatant deflections elicit giggles, but his delivery is polished and pure. Before all this, however, there was a basketball shootout, which the Falcons do before most team meetings. A hoop sits on the side wall up front. Quinn calls up one player from the offense, fifth-round RB Qadree Ollison, and one from defense, fourth-round DL John Cominsky. It’s essentially a large pop-a-shot contest, with players and coaches from the loser’s side subject to 15 pushups. The first-rounders, Lindstrom and McGary, volunteer to rebound, which might be the most taxing thing they ever do as Falcons, as neither Ollison or Cominsky appear ever to have held a round ball. Ollison makes two shots—a triumph over physics given his motion and release. Cominsky makes zero, with several of the 18-foot jumpers looking more like passes to the rebounder. At the buzzer he raises both middle fingers to the crowd, proactively combatting the inevitable jeers. In the back of the room, one staffer, in disgust and bewilderment, says, to no one in particular, “that was bad.” The MMQB 7:15 p.m. Defensive Backs Meeting After a few minutes of player-by-player and coach-by-coach introduction and ice-breakers, it’s time to get down to business. Defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson hands out thick binders, and the football portion of this weekend begins. In the room are 10 defensive backs, plus DBs coach Doug Mallory, assistant Chad Walker and former Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who recently arrived as a senior assistant. The players are introduced to the Falcons’ base coverage and some of its siblings. Everything starts with understanding the key terms: The side where the tight end aligns is called the Nub side. The opposite side is the Flex side. The passing strength is determined by the wide receivers. The side with the most wide receivers is strong, the side with the fewest wide receivers is weak. Some coverages are set to the big and small side of the field. If the ball is spotted on the right hash, that leaves more field space to the left, making that the “big” side of the field. A major component of Atlanta’s scheme is a safety rotating down into the box. Often this dictates coverage responsibilities for the linebackers and defensive backs. A Ralph call describes a safety rotating down to the defense’s right; Linda is a rotation down to the defense’s left. That alliterate correlation is no accident, and the concept applies to all of the Falcons’ play calls and communication. So, for example, the foundational Cover 3—which Quinn brought with him from Seattle—is called either Norway or Finland. The coverage is set to the tight end. So when the call is Norway, the strong safety is rotating down to the Nub side (i.e. the tight end side). Finland means he’s rotating to the Flex side (i.e. away from the tight end). A call like this named after a country means zone coverage. Man-to-man coverages are named after famous actors—Nicholson, Ferrell. Henderson and the other coaches take the rookies through PowerPoint slides and pieces of film to explain it all. “These calls must be communicated boldly,” Henderson implores. He doesn’t mean just in the huddle. Since a tight end’s location dictates whether the zone call is Norway or Finland, when a tight end goes in motion the rotated safety stays put and the call changes. Norway can become Finland. Everyone on the defense must register that. And this is all just for Atlanta’s main coverage. Every coverage has myriad variations, several of which the DBs will learn tonight. Like the version where a free safety, instead of strong safety, rotates down. Rather than pertaining to where the tight end is, a free safety’s rotation depends on where the wide receivers are. Remember the “strong” and “weak” thing? A call that rotates the free safety down to the strong side (i.e. the side with the most wide receivers) is called Sudan. If he is to rotate to the weak side (which is rare), it’s Wales. These are still countries, indicating the coverage is still zone. That’s for the base defense. There’s also the version for nickel, and that call is predicated on where the slot corner aligns. In their standard Cover 3 zone, the Falcons alwaysput their slot to the “big” side of the field (i.e. away from whatever hash the ball is spotted on). The Falcons call their nickel Cover 3 zone Belgium. All of this is presented to the rookies in less than an hour. And once the zone coverages are established, the related man-to-man and “matchup zone” versions are introduced. A matchup zone is when the zone coverage basically becomes man-to-man later in the down (as long as the offense deploys a vertical route inside). These coveragesare named after foods—Noodle, Fudge. Hear a food in the play-call and a defender knows he might have to convert his zone coverage into man. The Falcons may incorporate more matchup zone in 2019, as offenses have concocted so many ways to exploit their foundational Cover 3 (which is the defensive foundation for several teams). Quinn likes to install some of his new stuff during rookie minicamp so that coaches can use the session, as he says, “to find any blind spots in the teaching process.” Toward the end of the session, the blitz versions of the man-to-man and matchup zone coverages are installed. The blitzes are named after cartoons—Tiny Toons (the back is “to” the blitz side), Flintstones (the back is away “from” the blitz side)—and the calls are based not on where the tight end or wide receiver aligns, but rather, on where the running back aligns. That is, unless the call is “dotted,” which occurs when the formation tells the defense it might be a run, in which case it is based on where the tight end aligns. Got it? “Study this tonight,” Henderson tells the players as they file out just after 9:00. DAY 2: FRIDAY 8:00 a.m. | Quarterbacks Meting “Don’t sit in Matt Ryan’s chair, he’ll know,” says quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. “Sit across the table in Matt Schaub’s.” Knapp is in the small QB meeting room working an overhead projector. He’s with the rookie camp’s two quarterbacks, free agent Eli Dunne of Northern Iowa and Virginia’s Kurt Benkert, who was on the practice squad last year but is eligible for this rookie camp because he was never part of the Falcons’ active 53-man roster. Players in minicamp learn their position, but a QB must learn everyone’s. So far it’s going well. Benkert knows the offense from last year. Dunne is picking it up smoothly. His knee bounces in ostensible nervous energy, but he answers each of Knapp’s affable questions correctly. “That guy on‘Jeopardy’ has nothing on you,” Knapp says. 8:30 a.m. | Team Meeting Quinn kicks this session off with another basketball shootout. Yesterday, receiver Shawn Bane introduced himself as the best basketball player on the team. So now he’s shooting for the offense. But first, edge rusher TreCrawford shoots for the defense. Crawford’s first attempt hits the low ceiling, leading to a cacophony of heckles—which die quickly as he hits the next five shots. When Bane steps up and drills his first attempt, Morris, the receiverscoach, jumps up and puts both arms in the air in triumphant expectation. By Bane’s third miss, Morris’s arms are back by his sides, and two misses later the coach is back in his chair. Soon he’s doing pushups with the rest of the offense, as Bane made just one basket. Quinn’s PowerPoint lays out today’s practice schedule and reminds the players that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” Quinn then expounds on tackling—one of his great passions. Minicamp is no pads and no contact, but Quinn’s tackling lessons are about angles and leverage, which can be drilled anytime. The key to Atlanta’s foundational Cover 3 is players rallying to the ball. If you can’t do that correctly, you won’t play. There’s also a lecture about finishing plays aggressively; if you don’t go hard in drills, the guy you’re working against can’t go hard, and you both get screwed. Technique is also critical—Quinn also doesn’t want men finishing plays on the ground. This time of year it’s dangerous, and from football standpoint it’s often ineffective. The Falcons even discourage receivers from diving for the ball because the team wants to emphasize run-after-catch. Lastly, there’s a quick demonstration on appropriate uniform attire. One team employee comes dressed right , the other comes out wearing a jersey that’s been cut at the bottom as well several pieces of apparel that were not team-issued—including pointless elbow sleeves that Quinn argues no longer even look cool. 8:45 a.m. | Offensive Meeting Former Titans coach Mike Mularkey, now Atlanta’s tight end coach, kicks off the meeting with a sermon about running to and from practice drills. Throughout this meeting and others, Falcons coaches place heavy emphasis on seamlessly executing drills. Practices are short, and it’s imperative to maximize the number of reps. (“That’s one or two reps we lose,” Quinn says almost every time a player is caught doing anything the least bit inefficient.) Mularkey then turns things over to offensive line coach Chris Morgan, who’s installing the base run plays. Morgan’s overarching message is that it takes 11 players to run the ball. He shows several clips, including one from 2016 of Matt Ryan pretending to run a QB keeper after executing a handoff. The ploy freezes Khalil Mack, removing him from the run defense. “You guys remember Mack?” Morgan deadpans. “Used to play for the Raiders.” Today’s run plays are Willow, Spike and Thunder. Willow is an outside zone run away from the tight end. Spike is outside zone but to the tight end side, with a fullback leading the way. Thunder is a straight downhill run behind multiple double-team blocks. It’s a quick presentation, as the offense breaks into groups to install the bread-and-butter run plays in fine detail. The MMQB 9:00 a.m. | Offensive Line Meeting The session begins with two of the camp’s 10 offensive linemen standing at the front of the room telling a joke. The first joke is so-so, the other is delightfully raunchy. The mood now lightened, Morgan digs in, flipping the lights on and off as he jumps between instructive monologues and supporting pieces of film. The 11th-year O-line coach (fifth year with the Falcons) brightens when the first-round picks, Lindstrom and McGary, ask smart questions. Questions are catnip to Morgan, and if he’s not fielding any, he’s firing them out. “How about you, you have any questions,” he asks, addressing a player not by name but by school. “Uh, no, they were all answered earlier this morning,” the player says. “Every one of them, huh,” Morgan mutters, pacing the front of the room. He calls on other players individually, leaving them with nowhere to hide. Morgan is gruff but approachable—the type of personality you naturally yearn to please. After a quick review of Willow, Spike and Thunder, Morgan introduces their play-action versions, beginning with Meadow, which starts out looking like Willow but will pivot with a fake handoff and throw. “This play-action stuff is everything in our offense,” Morgan says. “It only works if you are 100 percent committed to it. You as an O-line make it go. Meadow has to look, smell and feel like a run.” In Meadow, the offensive linemen uniformly move one way before suddenly “settling” their blocks, pinning the defenders all on one side while the quarterback rolls out a few yards the other way. “At some point the defense will smell a rat,” Morgan says. And so it’s important the blockers settle at just the right time. But for just the right time to matter, you must first get the defense believing it’s a run. “Watch Brandon Fusco,” Morgan instructs, playing film of last year’s starting right guard. Fusco can be seen driving the defensive tackle to his left before settling his block to pin the defender. The tendency is for a blocker to wrap his outside hand around the defender he’s pinning. But Fusco doesn’t do that. “He gets his hands in on the defensive tackle, which makes the run-blocking action look authentic.” There’s another version of Meadow where the quarterback rolls not just a few yards, but clear outside the pocket. Since the QB in this case does not need a throwing platform from within the pocket, the offensive line can continue driving its blocks instead of settling. “You can sell run all the way to the friggin’ field numbers,” Morgan exclaims, adding that the offensive tackle’s aiming point for blocking on these keepers is “right at the defensive end’s face.” Morgan has a deliberate, dramatic way of speaking. When he describes the importance of the QB-center exchange drill that occurs before practice, you’re convinced Atlanta’s Super Bowl chances hinge on that exercise. 11:00 a.m. | Walkthrough NFL walkthroughs typically go exactly like as the name suggests—unless it’s with a bunch of rookies trying to make the team. At the starting horn, the entire O-line group sprints to its station with the urgency of men fleeing a live grenade. Halfway there, they realize they’re going the wrong way and, clumsily, all 10 turn around and sprint back to where they just came from. Eventually everyone is situated, and it’s here where players start looking their part. The first-rounders, McGary and especially Lindstrom, exit their stances with a crisp burst. Some of the undrafted guys are visibly processing the calls. One even waits for the rest of the group to perform an action before coming out of his stance to copy them. The MMQB 12:30 p.m. | Practice Almost nothing on the field of play is said only once. “Let’s go, let’s go!” every coach exhorts at least a dozen times. “The play is 18-19 Willow! 18-19 Willow!” yells another. “Motion! Motion! Motion! We got motion. Ralph! Ralph! Ralph! Ralph! Ralph!” yell multiple defensive backs. A lot happens at once in practice, especially during position group drills. On the near side of Field 1, Raheem Morris is berating a wideout about the importance of getting lined up. On the far side of Field 1, a tailback trips on a carry, and nearly a half-dozen players, spotting an easy opportunity to score brownie points under Quinn’s Brotherhood mantra, hustle to help him up. On Field 2, Mallory, the secondary coach, mimics a pocket QB, explaining to a defensive back in a tone that’s somehow both patient and impatient, “I’m not going to throw the ball while I’m still dropping back.” Mallory stifles a chagrined chuckle and adds, “I have to set my feet first. Don’t make your move until then.” On Field 3, Quinn is wearing giant padded arm shields and a backwards hat, working with players on pass-rush drills. This year he’s returning to his roots as a D-line coach and working hands-on with the edge defenders. Near the end of practice, the receivers face the corners in a seven-on-seven sequence. The wideout Morris lit up earlier gets dominated on a play, and again Morris is in his ear. Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson sees this and says he wants the next corner who’s rotating in to also go up against that wideout. Henderson is giving the wideoutanother shot. This time the receiver follows Morris’s instructions, working his release more patiently, and beats the corner. Morris beams. “See what I’m saying?! See what I’m saying!?” “I want to go again,” the receiver quips. But before he’s told no, the closing airhorn sounds. 2:00 p.m. | Lunch The food options are healthy and plentiful, and the players’ portions are enormous. Gatorade and bottled water are everywhere, with young trainers peddling the liquids. “Hydration” and all of its redeeming qualities are stressed more than anything else at camp. (Above some of the toilets is a chart that teaches players to monitor their hydration levels by examining the color of their urine.) The cafeteria is often busy, as there are scheduled meals at 7:00 a.m., 11:35, 2:00, 4:30 and 6:00. “This cafeteria is one of the best parts about my new job,” Bassity, the new P.R. director, is heard saying more than a few times. The MMQB 2:45 p.m. | Thomas Dimitroff’s Office The 12th-year GM’s domain is strangely bare when you walk in, but you soon understand why. On one of the three walls (the fourth is a window overlooking the practice field) is Dimitroff’s draft board, which is initially obscured by electronic blinds. The board is now empty, but Dimitroffis going through the digital version of his draft board on an 80-inch screen, which hangs next to the other 80-inch screen that he uses to watch film. He’s viewing his drafted players’ practice closely and mostly liking what he sees. “Lindstrom here, it’ll be interesting to see him once the vets arrive,” he says, slowing down the video. “The vets will try to faze him. But hey, Lindstrom’s a tough Boston kid. I’m sure he’ll have a response.” 3:15 p.m. | Defensive Backs Room “What do you run—what’s your 40 time,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson asks, pausing the film and turning to the player in question. “4.4.” “4 what?” Henderson says. “4.4.” “4 WHAT?” Now suspecting something’s up, the player is unsure whether to answer again. “That does not look like 4.4,” Henderson says, playing the film. “At 4.4 you should be catching that wide receiver.” On another play, a slot corner follows a receiver in motion, even though the slot coverage that was installed last night—the only slot coverage so far—is set to the big side of the field, not to a player or to an offensive formation. The corner should have stayed to that big side. But on film a linebacker is seen telling him to follow the motion, and after a slight pause, he does. “Don’t let someone wrongly tell you where to go,” Henderson says. None of this stuff is said maliciously, and players in the DBs room are clearly comfortable voicing questions. Henderson opened the meeting by explaining that blunt corrections are all part of the process, and if coaches don’t issue them, then “none of us get better.” There’s great focus on coverage technique, which was also emphasized in last night’s installation meeting. In the foundational coverages, Falcons outside corners play either Smack or Pony technique. Smack is simply straight man-to-man technique. You line up across from the wideout and, as DBs coach Mallory puts it, “you own that son of a *****.” Pony is tempo/bail technique—i.e. off-coverage. The corner plays with a cushion and reads multiple receivers, starting inside and working outside. He’s responsible for anything that enters his zone—the area from the sideline to two yards outside of the painted field numbers, clear to the back of the end zone (which is another way of saying “don’t let any receiver get deeper than you”). To illustrate this, Henderson pauses the film when an outside corner is located directly alongside his receiver five yards downfield. Henderson explains that anytime a receiver is even with a corner five yards into a route, the corner loses. Because from there a corner must turn and sprint, becoming utterly vulnerable to a comeback route. And so, Henderson stresses, an outside corner must stay on top of a receiver at all times. Ultimately, the Falcons want their coverages to induce short passes. Henderson rolls the film and immediately sees a pass to the flat. Nice … except the looming tackler closes poorly on the ball. “In this league, if you approach a tackle like this,” he says, slowing down the film, “with your weight up high like that, you’ll get a chest full of Grown Man.” Minutes before the meeting concludes, Quinn pops in, his hat still backwards from practice. “Guys, we need more speed today,” the coach says. “Whatever speed you have, we need all of it.” 4:45 p.m. | Defensive Meeting Tomorrow’s new plays will soon be introduced by linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich. But first Quinn, after preaching about effort and getting into football shape, has an NFL rules emphasis to stress: “The biggest change in the NFL [when coming out of college] is pass interference. You guys had 15-yard penalties. Now it can be much, much more. A downfield DPI? That’s worse than punching someone. In the NFL, you punch someone, it’s 15 yards. But grab their jersey downfield and it can be, like we saw today on this play [he rolls more film], 28 yards.” DPIs, Quinn says, are not just about the defensive backs. Often the DB gets in a tough situation after someone up front fails to do his job. It’s all connected. To further drive home the importance of clean defensive play, Quinn asks Bob Sutton to recite a stat. “In the NFL, only 1 percent of drives that start at the 20-yard line go for a touchdown without a defensive penalty or an explosive play occurring,” Sutton says. It’s quiet for a moment, and many players are wearing a Wow! REALLY? expression. 5:15 p.m. | Linebackers Meeting “I’m not very bright, so I swear a lot to fill the void,” Ulbrich, the LBs coach, jokes. He played nine seasons with the 49ers, then joined the Seahawks’ coaching staff in 2010.He came over from Seattle with Quinn when the latter took the Falcons’ head coaching job in 2015. “Today I saw a lot of looking and then running,” Ulbrich explains. “Forget that—run and figure it out while you run.” Ulbrich follows this point with an explicit speech about going hard, imploring his players to leave everything on the field. “For a lot of you, tomorrow will be your last football practice ever.” A heavy silence sweeps the room. “Go hard, have no regrets.” Then Ulbrich turns on the film, and the next 30 minutes are a master class in fine detail. He notes, for example, that when covering a running back in man-to-man, a linebacker should play to the help of his free defender but not line up in a way that makes him dependent on that help. Because a free defender early in the down instinctively thinks about helping against wide receivers and tight ends, not a tailback. Also on the topic of alignment, when the defensive line is executing a stunt or twist, a linebacker should just align in his exact location of coverage, not in his run gap, because the D-line’s movement will distort that gap. Ulbrich has a back-and-forth with a player about whether a linebacker in coverage should match the running back’s steps or mirror the running back’s steps. If those seem strikingly similar, it’s because they are. “We’re saying the same thing,” Ulbrich admits, “but we need to actually say it the same way. Because in the heat of the moment, that’s when communication gets messy.” Ulbrich’s four-man linebacker group studies a formation that calls for a coverage to be set based on a tight end. Not on a split-out fullback, Ulbrich stresses, because tight ends are the more dangerous receiving weapons. It’s 5:58. In two minutes, the meeting will end, as will Day 2 of minicamp. “Rewrite your notes tonight,” Ulbrich tells his players. “Then get a few other guys and work through this stuff together.” DAY 3: SATURDAY 8:00 a.m. | Special Teams Meeting Coordinator Ben Kotwica couldn’t sleep last night, and so he turned on the Warriors-Rockets Game 6 around midnight, watching Steph Curry score all 33 of his points in the second half. That gives Kotwica a perfect avenue with which to illustrate today’s theme: killer instinct. Not that these players should need much motivating. They know their future in football hinges on their special teams prowess. Kotwica then shows clips of the previous day’s best special teams plays. The receiver whom Raheem Morris was coaching hard stood out positively several times. For today, the focus is mainly kickoff coverage. Kotwica teaches the NFL’s alignment rule and coverage strategies. “And if you make a play like this,” he says, rolling film of Dolphins running back Kenyon Drake celebrating a big kickoff coverage hit, “you can run around and celebrate all you want—just don’t take your helmet off.” 8:30 a.m. | Team Meeting In placeof a pop-a-shoot, today’s meeting begins with “Falcons Jeopardy.” A hastily photoshopped picture of Alex Trebek in a Falcons sports jacket appears on the projector screen. The game features just one question, and if any player answers it correctly, the coaches will do pushups. A new slide comes up, a photo of a dreadlocked team employee. The question below it: What is this man’s name? “Oh, that’s easy,” one coach mutters from the back. The players recognize the guy as the staffer who organized the equipment from drill to drill on Friday. But his name? No one answers, and soon Quinn order the players to hit the floor. Then he informs the players that this is Kenny Osuwah, assistant equipment manager. As the second part of the slide explains, Kenny also goes by “My G,” “Long Walk”and “Balls Are In Guy,” because he yells “balls are in” when a drill is complete and all the pigskins are accounted for. “Kenny and all the equipment guys work with us,” Quinn says. “They’re not here to pick up after us.” Yesterday, after practice, Quinn took note of which players simply left their towels on the floor. 8:45 a.m. | Defensive Line Meeting D-line coach Jess Simpson is apologizing to his group for having been absent the last two days. Simpson was recently hired from the University of Miami, and two days earlier his house there burnt down. Simpson and his wife were not home and no one was hurt, but everything they owned was destroyed. Quinn pops in and calls me out of the room. “Jess just got here and doesn’t know about the story you’re working on, so I don’t want to throw him off,” Quinn explains. “Come into our room.” “Our room” is the edge defenders room, which is run by Quinn and Aden Durde, a London native who earned a defensive assistant job in 2016 after serving as the head of football development for NFL UK. He’s gifted at explaining—with an accent—how the trees fit the forest and why things are done the way they are. The MMQB The Falcons recently installed conference tables in their position group rooms so that players can better collaborate. Quinn sits at the table with the edge defenders, chiming in every so often and getting up a few times to demonstrate techniques. The coolest technique: the long-arm lift move, where a defender gets his hand underneath a blocker’s extended arm and powers up through it. Quinn demonstrates that it only works if the defender grabs at the blocker’s elbow. Any lower on the arm and there’s not enough leverage. “We are going to be better at fundamentals than everyone else by a mile,” Quinn says matter-of-factly. Besides pass rushing moves, the Falcons focus heavily on how to defend the run and related play-action bootlegs. Coaches teach what Quinn calls a “Pup” technique. You slide down the line scrimmage as an unblocked defender, removing that space between you and the other linemen, all the while staying square. When you see that the QB has the ball, you “pin” the hip of the widest blocker and get “up” the field, where you then look to get “everything,” by which Quinn means “the ball.” There is also a tutorial on landmark zone coverage, since an edge defender in Atlanta’s scheme must drop back and cover the flats. The players are taught the linebackers’ coverage rules so they can better understand the logic and inherent stresses of their own coverage rules. 11:00 a.m. | Walkthrough The communication today is livelier and more urgent than on Friday, when players had just learned the terminology. In a walkthrough, it’s defense on one side of the field, offense on the other. Which means defensive players, at times, must stand in as offensive players when formations are being reviewed. Quinn plays quarterback in the defensive walkthrough. Shortly after that, Durde works off to the side with a few edge defenders, moving trash cans around to simulate offensive alignments. The defenders’ job is to call out his corresponding assignment. “Why are you whispering,” Durde snaps at the players. “Crossfire! Crossfire!” the players shout—the alert word for a possible tight end backside block. “Bloody right,” Durde barks. 12:30 p.m. | Practice The edge defenders work on angled pursuit tackles, emitting screams, gurgles and grunts as they do so. Today’s practice is indoors. Yesterday’s was supposed to be, as well, as meteorologists’ had forecast a “100 percent” chance of rain. But it wound up being sunny enough that some onlookers came away sunburned. An onlooker can sense the pain in a player when he makes a mistake. Reps are still very limited, so everything is magnified. A fringe player’s chances could ride on just a handful of snaps. One presumably displeased player concludes a drill with an emphatic handclap and furious F-bomb. At the conclusion of practice some 20 minutes later, he does it again, just to sum everything up. Tami Chappell/AP/REX/Shutterstock 2:40 p.m. | Lunch Quinn approaches a table of six players who are ignoring each other, faces buried in their devices. The coach gently suggests that they put away their cell phones. “Get to know your teammates,” he chides. 3:30 p.m. | Team-Building The tryout players have left, to await a call from the Falcons if their services are needed. Remaining are the 16 college free agents and seven drafted players. They’ll spend this minicamp’s last two hours watching a lecture from the Acumen Performance Group, a private entity comprising retired Navy SEALs. The group has worked with the Falcons since 2016. “You’ve been on a one-man team of your own these last four months, getting ready for the draft,” Quinn tells his players. “So now we’re focusing on full team-building.” With that, APG’s founder, Bill Hart, takes the stage and shouts orders. “Everyone into the front rows! Move! Move! Move!” For the next hour Hart speaks about what it means to have a killer instinct and to be a high-level performer. Then, the retired SEALs and players perform team-building exercises. Exiting the room afterwards, at 5:37, right tackle KalebMcGary glimpses a window and notes with pleasant surprise that “it’s light outside”—an absurd observation given that sunset all week has been around 8:30 p.m. McGary makes for the exit. He and the other rookies will be back on Monday, this time alongside the veterans. For rookie nerves, Quinn says, this weekend has been tough.“But Monday is way worse.” Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com. https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/05/15/2019-rookie-camp-atlanta-falcons-mmqb-embed?utm_campaign=themmqb&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com
  5. THE FALCONS’ OFFENSE FINDS ITS WINGS Know who’s one of the best assistant coaches in the NFL right now? That’s right—Atlanta OC Steve Sarkisian, as you all expected during that Thursday night opener. The Falcons are fifth in the NFL in total offense and just 3.6 yards per game off the torrid pace that the Kyle Shanahan-fueled Atlanta attack of 2016 set. And they’ve gotten there with a similar approach to the one that Sarkisian’s predecessor deployed, which is to attack from every angle and at all times. Take the end of Sunday’s blowout win over the Redskins and their well-regarded defense. It’s third-and-2, with 3:55 left, and Atlanta leads 31-14. Sarkisian’s foot wasn’t coming off the pedal. “We’ve been preaching attack, attack, attack, and that’s [Dan Quinn’s] messaging too,” Sarkisian said last night. “And we’ve had a couple opportunities, granted, in some other, tighter games, and even last week though against the Giants, where we could have closed the game out on offense, essentially in four-minute offense, and we didn’t get it done. You can go to the Saints game, at the end we have a critical third down that we don’t pick and we go to overtime and lose. “So we’ve been really stressing over the last couple weeks and practicing what we would call ‘winning-time moments.’ We wanted to make sure we stayed aggressive, because we’ve been preaching it. And as a coach if you don’t practice what you preach then the players view as, is that just talk or is that who we really are?” So rather than running the ball in that situation, with the game comfortably in hand, Sarkisian called for a screen to Julio Jones. One kickout block from Jake Matthews later and the Falcons’ all-world receiver was on his way to the end zone from 35 yards out. So capped Atlanta’s sixth 400-yard effort in its last seven games, which is even more impressive considering the pressure of having to make up for the injury problems on defense (Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Ricardo Allen), and some of the offense’s own injury issues (both starting guards, Devonta Freeman on IR). • TRADE EFFECTS: How Demaryius Thomas and other deadline-trade players performed for their new teams Sarkisian will tell you now it’s a result of the mutual comfort level between the offensive coaches and players, and his own ability to run the offense that Shanahan left behind. And yes, he’s heard the criticism, which is getting harder to levy against him by the day. “I’ve being doing this a long time, and you learn that it comes with the territory,” he said. “You can’t ride the emotional roller-coaster of one good game and you think you’re the greatest and then one bad game and you’re the worst. You need to find that even keel, and the steadiness, the consistency in your preparation and your work. “For me in Year 2 it’s just an overall comfort level, with our players, our style of play, to put our players in the best position to be successful.” We’ll see how far it takes the banged up Falcons from here. Thus far, they’ve managed to ride the offense from 1-4 to 4-4, and back into the NFL playoff hunt.
  6. https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/08/29/atlanta-falcons-2018-preview Atlanta’s Defense Is One Step From Greatness: 10 Thoughts on the 2018 Falcons As the NFL season approaches, Andy Benoit is previewing every NFL team in reverse order of last season’s finish. Up today: the Atlanta Falcons, who finished 10–6 and beat the Rams in the wild-card round before falling to the eventual-Super Bowl champion Eagles in the divisional round. 1. If not for allowing 31 points in their Monday night win over a Seahawks club that benefitted from Tyler Lockett’s great kickoff returns much of the game, the Falcons would have been the only NFL team last season to hold every opponent to under 27 points. That includes both of their playoff opponents, the Rams and Eagles, who finished first and third in scoring, respectively. Quietly, this has become a very good defense. But, in Year 4 under Dan Quinn and with its nucleus having been in place for multiple seasons, it’s now to the point where anything short of greatness would be disappointing. Every level of this D has flashed before, but never have they all shined unceasingly. In the secondary, corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are bona fide stoppers, both on the perimeter and, when need be, in the slot. But they’ve also made just enough mistakes to keep from being elite. (For Alford, it’s penalties. For Trufant, at least last year, it was giving up big plays at a few untimely moments.) At linebacker, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell look like the next Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, though they must become a tick more consistent at tackling and covering. (To be fair, Wagner and Wright are nearly flawless.) Up front, edge rusher Vic Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016 but disappeared for stretches last year. As strictly a pass rushing specialist, he must bounce back. Opposite Beasley, 2017 first-rounder Takk McKinley came alive in the playoffs; can he blossom into a true three-down player? The 2017 Falcons defense didn’t get gouged for points, but it also created an NFC-low 16 turnovers and couldn’t always get off the field. If the 2018 D is to elevate to Super Bowl caliber, it must generate more big plays. 2. Quinn runs a Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone scheme, though over the last two years he has incorporated significant snaps of man coverage. Either way, you hear all the time, Quinn’s system demands speed, especially at safety and linebacker. There are four reasons for this: 1) Like the old AT&T commercial said, “Faster is better than slower.” Simple. 2) Quinn’s zone coverages naturally concede a lot of space underneath. A defense offsets this by rallying to the ball. 3) Those same zone coverages can leave linebackers and safeties matched against wide receivers downfield. Those linebackers’ and safeties’ only prayer is to recognize the receiver’s route early and run. 4) Speed provides more freedom for man coverage assignments, which the Falcons took advantage of in 2017. 3. Some of Atlanta’s man coverage tendencies: —They play it only when their secondary is close to fully healthy. —They go man-robber against teams that run crossing patterns. Generally, in man-robber, one safety is deep and the other swoops across the middle. —If they’re not blitzing, the Falcons prefer to match the speedier Deion Jones on a running back and the bigger De’Vondre Campbell on a tight end. (Though as Campbell has improved, these assignments have become more negotiable.) —They’ll go “2 man,” playing both safeties back, which requires defenders to be more aggressive in their defined man assignments. Quinn tends to save these calls for crucial late situations. And because “2 man” is vulnerable to scrambles, he’ll often spy the quarterback, usually with Beasley. 4. The biggest mistake Gary Gramling and I made in our Top 10 Defensive Lineman podcast this offseason was not including Grady Jarrett. Yes, there are a ton of great defensive linemen right now. Jarrett is absolutely one of them. The fourth-year gap-penetrating maestro is quick with both his feet and his hands, and he amplifies it with sharp play recognition. Don’t be fooled by his low ’17 sack total (four). Jarrett is a tremendous force. 5. The only concern with this defense is questionable depth along the front four. Quinn prefers to rotate eight or nine D-linemen in highly specific packages. He might not have the resources for that in 2018. The Falcons must love rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver; they had zero need at his position but still drafted him in Round 2, before any other defenders. 6. Despite ranking third in pass efficiency, eighth in run efficiency and first in third down efficiency, Atlanta’s offense averaged 11.7 fewer points per game in 2017 than in 2016. Schematically, it used the same ingredients as 2016, but those ingredients just didn’t produce meals as tasty. A bounceback is in the hands of chef Steve Sarkisian. Now with a year of NFL game-planning and play-calling under his belt, the offensive coordinator must find the run-pass harmony that his predecessor, Kyle Shanahan, mastered. Atlanta’s scheme is conducive to this. With an outside zone running game, a savvy veteran QB like Matt Ryan and scary outside receivers, throwing out of running looks comes naturally. 7. Sarkisian would help himself by putting running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the field together. He did this in 2017, but only sparingly. It needs to happen 15 to 20 times a game. If there’s concern about overtaxing the star tailbacks, fourth-round rookie Ito Smith can assume a rotational role. Freeman and Coleman are both tremendous zone runners — Freeman with his vision and inside shiftiness, Coleman with his deceptive, long-striding speed. They’re potent together because either, or both, can flex out anywhere as a receiver. There’s no defensive package to counter this tandem. Go with three linebackers and you get thrown on. Employ a fifth defensive back and you get run on. Ryan is great going no-huddle. Imagine what he could do with these two flexible mismatch pieces and the entire 2:00 playbook at his disposal. 8. No play in football is more dangerous for defenses than Julio Jones catching a slant in stride. This is the crux of Atlanta’s play-action scheme. It’s imperative that the Falcons leverage it to help their ground game. Linebackers aren’t so quick to hit run-gaps when they’re worried about helping against the game’s most physically imposing receiver. 9. Left tackle Jake Matthews just got a contract extension. He has the athleticism to block in Atlanta’s outside zone ground game, and with his smooth footwork, the Falcons are often comfortable with him pass protecting one-on-one. But, big contract or not, five years into his career, you’d like the former No. 6 overall pick to be a tad more consistent. 10. Right guard Wes Schweitzer got better down the stretch last season, which was critical since opponents were building their pass-rushing game plans around attacking him. Still, Schweitzer was this offense’s weak link, and a general manager’s job, at the core, is to fix weak links. So Thomas Dimitroff invested $12.75 million over three years in ex-49er/Viking Brandon Fusco (who, early in his career, was Minnesota’s version of Schweitzer). Schweitzer should stay focused, though. Left guard Andy Levitre is 32, has had some injuries and is in the final year of his contract. Schweitzer may very well be competing with sturdy backup Ben Garland for the other starting guard job in 2019.
  7. https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/07/02/atlanta-falcons-dan-quinn-military-chip-kelly-ucla-eagles-blake-bortles-supplemental-draft?utm_campaign=themmqb&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social Not gonna paste the whole artical...just the Falcons related part..... Dan Quinn doesn’t want to make the soldier’s name public, because the soldier himself doesn’t want that. But even without the name attached, his story (which has been confirmed) is worth telling, especially on the week of Independence Day. It might be the best way to honor the soldier’s impact on Quinn’s Falcons. Quinn met him through his Quinn’s Corps program a few years back, and the Army cavalry specialist explained what happened to him while he was deployed in Afghanistan. A buddy of his had been killed two days earlier. Determined to avenge him, and knowing where the assailants were, the soldier sought retribution on enemy territory. But as he was entering the house where his friend died, on hostile turf, the soldier’s emotions betrayed what he was taught. The lesson he learned that day, when he was injured by an IED, resonated with Quinn. “He didn’t go through all his training, he didn’t go through the checks for explosive devices,” Quinn said, over the phone last week. “He wanted retribution, so he abandoned his training. He was away from his guys. The story was, no matter what, I was trained to do this. But because I wanted to make it right, I forgot to do everything I was trained to do.” Football players are not soldiers. Games are not war. But the correlation that Quinn could draw between the makeup of a soldier and what pro football players need to do to succeed—he was still in Seattle, as defensive coordinator, at the time—was impossible to miss. This soldier felt a deep loyalty and connection to his teammates. He had their back, even in the worst circumstances. And in the end, that was important, but so too was a soldier’s ability to channel emotion and adhere to his training under the most adverse and pressure-packed situations. It was then that Quinn knew that whenever he got his shot at being a head coach, the military would become a part of his program. In Atlanta, it has. And two days before the Fourth of July, we thought this would be a good time to explain how, at this strange time in the NFL when the pregame singing of the national anthem has become a political battleground, Quinn has made that count for his team. In this holiday edition of the MMQB, we’re going to check in with Chip Kelly 18 months after his run as NFL coach concluded, explain why the Jaguars are optimistic with where Blake Bortles is, and break down the supplemental draft class that will enter the league on July 11. But we’re going to start with Quinn and the Falcons, and where the NFL’s most military-connected team stands in the bizarre landscape of 2018. And that means explaining, first, how Quinn has handled the balancing act that most coaches never thought they’d have to worry about: the philosophical differences that exist in every locker room over the playing of the national anthem. “You know what was cool?” Quinn said. “Back in November, the team got together and said, ‘How do we go from where we are and go make a difference?’ I was proud to be part of this group this spring. We took action on nine different initiatives in the offseason, one a week, that we wanted to take on as a team. And so what we did in the offseason was take on some of the issues that were really important to players. “A lot of that involved the team’s influence and the police side of things, so we dove head-first into those two things with ridealongs, and trips to boys and girls clubs, a lot of things back-and-forth with the police and the community. So that’s really what we decided on as a team. “As far as how that ties into the military and the anthem, if you ask anyone on our team, we love the military and the anthem and the flag, and everything that it stands for. We’re hopeful that by taking some initiative, and taking a stand to make a difference this spring, we got to some of those issues that are really important and that need our attention. I was glad that we were able to make an impact.” It was easier, too, because of the attachment the Falcons have had to the military, and the fulfillment of Quinn’s plan to build its principles into his program. The idea crystallized with the story of the injured soldier, but that was neither the beginning nor the end for the coach. Quinn’s father-in-law, Larry Haines, was in the Navy, and a number of his college buddies served too. He says now that if not for coaching, there’s a good chance that would’ve been his life too. And so he’s always kept a connection there, and that was the impetus to launch Quinn’s Corps in 2009 in Seattle, when he was the D-line coach. He took it with him to the University of Florida, back to Seattle and then to Atlanta. The program flies soldiers in for games, and Quinn expanded it over the last few years where players would wear decals of soldiers’ initials on their helmets—they needed to get league approval for it—during Salute to Service month. In some cases, those soldiers meet with the players wearing their names while in town on Quinn’s Corps trips. “I knew there could be this natural connection, going for something at the highest level, and the accountability to the person right next to you, through the years they have nailed that in every way,” Quinn said. “So if we could learn from them, then I thought, ‘How can we apply it to our team?’” That’s where Quinn took it to the next level. Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff had just finished informing a rookie of his release after Quinn’s first season, and Quinn overheard this particular player running into a now ex-teammate on his way out the door after cleaning out his locker. “He said to the [released] player, ‘Hey man, sorry about that,’” Quinn said. “And the rookie said, ‘Can I get your number?’ That felt like a dagger to the chest, because these two guys had been on the same team, and he didn’t have the guy’s phone number. At that point, I realized, ‘Man, we’re a long way away to be as close and connected as we could be.’” So knowing his desire to incorporate military ideals, Dimitroff and trainer Marty Lauzon suggested to Quinn bringing in Acumen Performance Group, run by ex-Navy Seals who apply their training methods to train in both the corporate and athletic arena. Quinn knew the Miami Heat worked with those guys, and with coach Erik Spoelstra signing off on the experience, the Falcons started with APG in 2016. The lessons were pretty similar to ones that Quinn took from his military friend wounded in battle: Being accountable to one another was vital, as was adhering to what you’ve been taught in the harshest of circumstances. Accordingly, Atlanta broke through that year, reaching the Super Bowl. But the training experience might have been even more valuable after that last game didn’t go to plan. By then, the APG folks had put Falcons players through a process of writing their own standard operating procedures and code of conduct. Sure enough, sticking to that foundation got the team through the hangover—and a rocky start to 2017. “The most powerful one, it helped develop our mental toughness,” Quinn said. “For us, we had to show some resiliency, getting your *** kicked at the end of the Super Bowl isn’t a highlight. But it gives you the platform to show resiliency. This is the life we live, as competitors. So we’ve got to come back, let’s make sure we fight and compete. You’ve seen the closeness of this team take on what I hoped it could be.” And along the way, the benefits have helped deepen the bond between the team and the military. This year the Falcons became the first club to conduct their own USO tour, with linemen Alex Mack and Ben Garland (an Air Force Academy graduate and active captain in the Colorado Air National Guard) and kicker Matt Bryant going with Quinn to Iraq and Kuwait, which was an offshoot of the experience Quinn, Vic Beasley, Paul Worrilow, Grady Jarrett and Bryant had in the Pacific two years ago. Over there, Quinn got to meet and talk shop with General Paul Funk, but the thing that hit him most was how Mack, Garland and Bryant knew, on their own, the opportunity in front of them, and used it to talk to the soldiers about leadership. And Quinn saw that reciprocated in soldiers asking him how he handled rookies, since the military guys had rookies of their own. Back home, at this point, the benefits are coming organically. In April, Falcons veterans assigned mentors to the 33 rookies on the 90-man roster, with a plan to teach the younger players not about X’s and O’s, but about the standards they’ve set through all the training they’ve gotten. As Quinn describes it, “real training from their teammates.” The veterans are capable teachers because they’ve seen the value in it, through APG and Quinn’s Corps and USO and also the TAPS program (an organization that provides support for those grieving the loss of a member of the armed forces), which they work with for a game and, like Quinn’s Corps and APG, involves the whole group. “It gives you a real sense of cooperation and teamwork, it’s a really important part of our craft, and hopefully we can be a model for other people to show what being part of a team can be like,” Quinn said. “I wish more of our country could see what our locker room looks like, because this is a really tight connected group of guys that wanna get it right for one another. That’s the coolest thing to be a part of.” It’s pretty cool to hear about it, too, particularly during this time of year, and this time in our country’s history, when so many seem to think there’s some sort of divide between those who serve and the athletes who entertain us back home.
  8. Without looking: How would yall grade this draft? https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/05/29/nfl-draft-grades-2015-jameis-winston-marcus-mariota ATLANTA FALCONS 1 (8) Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson 2 (42) Jalen Collins, DB, LSU 3 (73) Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana 4 (107) Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina 5 (137) Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson 7 (225) Jake Rodgers, OT, Eastern Washington 7 (249) Akeem King, DB, San Jose State
  9. Meh, normally Benoit is one of the better and more informed writers, but I'm not sure where he is getting this notion that Quinn runs one of the purer 4-3 schemes. In base we have always used a shade 1-tech NT, which isn't traditional at all, along with often walking the SS down into the box. And in nickel, it's true we often run a more traditional 3-tech and 2i alignment inside, but we've still often dropped one of the 5 DB's into the box to show what looks like a 4-3 even in nickel. And we play mostly nickel these day, upwards of 70%. And by definition, you can't run a 3-4 front in nickel. because one of the 4 linebackers in a 3-4 is pulled for the 5th DB, which is what makes it a nickel defense in the first place. Again, he's probably talking about us walking the 5th DB into the box and calling that a 3-4 front.
  10. https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/01/08/divisional-round-playoffs-eagles-falcons-titans-patriots-steelers-jaguars-saints-vikings
  11. 8. I think it was interesting to see that Pete Prisco of CBS Sports asked some Falcons the other day how they felt about the Patriots having 283 tiny diamonds on their Super Bowl rings this year. The meaning: 283, as in coming back from a 28-3 deficit to win Super Bowl 51. Prisco said he could tell the Falcons players didn’t like it. I say so what. If I’m the Patriots, 283 is a tremendous point of pride, noting the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. When I heard the Patriots had 283 diamonds on each ring, I didn’t take it in any way as a slap in the face to the Falcons. I took it only as a “look what we did” memento. If the Falcons are upset about it, maybe they should be. Maybe they should be reminded that blowing a 28-3 lead in the third quarter of a Super Bowl just doesn’t get swept under the rug. It’s real.
  12. Excerpt from Albert Breer's MMQB on the Falcons defense
  13. From Summer School to the Super Bowl for Brady, Ryan Matt Ryan and Tom Brady didn’t get to Houston by accident. Here’s the story of how offseason work with a couple baseball pitchers benefited both QBs. Plus items on Dan Quinn, the Indy mess and six draft storylines Matt Ryan Is Old School At Philly’s venerable Penn Charter, they remember Matt Ryan as a low-key, egalitarian leader for whom a team win, not stats or stature, was the priority. The Falcons QB has carried that ethos all the way to Super Bowl 51. MOBILE, Ala. — Back in July, I visited Tom House and Adam Dedeaux in California to try and figure why 13 of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks had gone to a couple former pitchers to fine-tune their throwing mechanics and round themselves out as athletes. Six months later, two of those 13 are facing off in Super Bowl 51. One will play the final game of his 30s there, after making his sixth consecutive appearance in the conference title round. The other just wrapped up the best season of his career after a three-season playoff drought, posting a 117.1 passer rating, and then besting it in playoff wins over the Seahawks (125.7) and Packers (139.4) As the ex-baseballers would explain, for Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, none of that is by coincidence. This week’s Game Plan is packed with stuff on the Super Bowl teams: On how Brady led the Falcons to Ryan; why Dan Quinn’s success was predictable in some corners; and the coach who’s made all the difference in Foxboro. And we’ll go to other corners, too, with a look at the Colts’ tumult and a half-dozen hot draft storylines at the Senior Bowl here in Mobile. But we start with the quarterbacking mecca that House and Dedeaux have built, and what’s it meant to the two Super Bowl quarterbacks on their way to Houston. The work Matt Ryan put in during the offseason has paid off with a trip to Super Bowl 51. Brady has long been the most famous client of House and Dedeaux (who recently bought House out). Conversely, Ryan, is among the newest quarterbacks to come aboard. The results are what tie the two together here. The results of the past few years are what pushed Ryan to House and Dedeaux in the first place. Ryan went to California last January for a three-day evaluation. He left with a list of things to work on. Six weeks later, he traveled back for another four days, then Dedeaux joined Ryan and his offensive teammates in Fort Lauderdale for their pre-offseason program workouts. Then, during OTAs, Dedeaux went to Atlanta for troubleshooting, and Ryan went back to California for another four days during the break between the Falcons’ June minicamp and the July start to training camp. Since, Dedeaux has come in periodically for tune-ups, and the two talk every week. “The progress that Matt made this year has been awesome. We knew he was capable of doing it,” Dedeaux said this week. “Going through the evaluation process, we found some things he needed to get better at, strength-wise and mechanics-wise. He put in a ton of work. And I think it’s helped his confidence overall. Through the work he did, he was able to take huge strides, more than we even thought.” The big improvements Ryan was tasked with making were to get stronger in his core and his throwing shoulder. There were little things, too, like erasing Ryan’s previous struggles throwing short and to his left. And the result, as the coaches saw it, was not only a more confident quarterback, but a more physically capable one too. “There were throws we worked on in the offseason, and throws that he identified—hey, this is a throw I struggled with,” Dedeaux said. “And the thing about him is he’s gotten better through the season. Different things have come up. And he’ll say, ‘OK, we need to work on this, and he’s gotten better.’ We worked all through the offseason and in-season things come up. “He was able to make adjustments, based on everything we’d been working on. As new things came up, he kept getting better and better. I think he’s playing far better now than he was even in the beginning of the season.” As for Brady, House has told the Patriots quarterback over the years that—injury permitting—he should be able to keep playing, and playing well, until he’s 45. So Dedeaux isn’t exactly shocked that this is happening. But this year has been different. The four-game suspension—during which House spent time working with Brady in Massachusetts—made it so, as did adjustments the quarterback made to his playing style. Again, the results are what matter, and those are pretty easy to see in a record 28-to-2 TD-INT ratio, and a seventh trip to the Super Bowl. The age thing? Not a problem, as predicted. “I think he’s better now than he was five or six years ago,” Dedeaux said. “He’s playing better. His body allows him to do more. And constantly we were encouraging him to use the athleticism he had. He played catcher in high school—he had the ability to be athletic, to be quick and move his feet. “I think now he’s playing better than ever, honestly. He hasn’t lost any arm strength. There’s no decline in arm strength. I think he’s able to do more now than he has before.” So in 10 days, Dedeaux will be in Houston to get one last look at Brady in his 30s, and another look at the rebuilt Ryan. And that won’t be a bad testimonial for the work he and House have done. FOUR DOWNS Ryan and Brady last faced each other in September 2013, a 30-23 Patriots win. 1. How Brady inspired the Falcons to draft Matt Ryan. There are plenty of mechanics and technical aspects to scouting quarterbacks. But with most general managers, instinct is involved too. And so it was that in early 2008, new Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff arrived fresh off six years in New England. And that experience with the Patriots played a role in a feeling Dimitroff got about Matt Ryan. Armed with the third overall pick, the Falcons brass finished a private workout with Ryan on Boston College’s campus, and climbed aboard Arthur Blank’s jet. I’ll let Dimitroff take it from there. “I remember we were flying West to San Francisco to work some players out, watching some video,” Dimitroff said Wednesday. “It was funny, it hadn’t quite dawned on me this way before, but I swear to God, I looked out the window and there was this amazing sunset shining through the clouds, and I looked down at the video I was watching. And I saw the ‘12’ on Matt’s back (Ryan wore 12 at BC), and I immediately started thinking about Tom Brady. And it was like, this is a no-brainer, this is what we have to do. You’re always looking for confirmation. That was a fun moment for me, like, ‘What are we doing? We’re overthinking this. And [then-coach Mike Smith] and I talked about it and said no question, 100 percent, this is our guy.” And it wasn’t just a feeling either. Dimitroff says now that being around Brady reinforced his beliefs on the importance of leadership and work ethic in quarterbacks, and Ryan certainly had those. There were also physical similarities. “Having had the opportunity to be around Tom, watching him, and marveling at him and how he handled himself, ad-libbing in the pocket was one of the things that really got my attention,” Dimitroff said. “When I started to watch Matt Ryan, it was a major similarity they have. They can create and ad-lib in the pocket before they throw, and you combine that with an attitude I thought Matt had just watching from afar, and it was on my mind. The similarities sunk in for me on several levels.” Ryan still, of course, has a long way to go if he’s ever to create a legacy like Brady’s. But looking at where they are, I’m gonna guess the Falcons are pretty satisfied that one No. 12 led them to another. 2. Quinn’s emergence a long time coming. Five years ago, I put together a list of college coaches that NFL teams were eyeing, and only one real surprise popped up—an assistant made the list. Back then, Dan Quinn was in his first year as Florida’s defensive coordinator, imported by Will Muschamp after spending 2010 as the Seahawks’ defensive line coach, and so the idea of him being an NFL head coach seemed pretty far off. Turns out, it wasn’t, and the guys who gave me his name were right. So to get some insight into what makes Quinn what he is, I figured it’d make sense to circle back with the AFC college scouting director who originally called my attention to Quinn. I asked him how he knew then what we know now, and he was pretty concise with his answer: “He had worked under some good head coaches and he was a very good coordinator and position coach—really high energy. But one of the keys was that he has that very few head coaches have is he has a really good feel for personnel. He always did as an assistant coach, and he does now.” And that, to this evaluator, became obvious when Quinn was describing the array of Gator defensive prospects that he was coaching. “You’d just watch and see the growth and how he grew as a leader of his position group and then the defense. How do the players respond to him? Also, are they getting better? Are the players in the right spots to utilize their talent.” That was all there with Quinn, and it was on display for the NFL teams that’d roll through Gainesville to see. “Always thought he was a stud,” said another college scouting director. “One, he’s sharp. Two, he’s always been a real dude. Players respect that combination. When you’re smart, have presence, and don’t BS people, they’ll respect the s--- out of you and play their *** off for you. That’s why I believe in Muschamp and (Jimbo) Fisher as potential pro coaches. And these flash-in-the-pan gimmick guys that everyone wants to anoint have no shot. At Florida, you knew he was a strong presence and scheme guy who interacted great with staff and players.” Quinn returned to Seattle to replace Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator in 2013, then became Falcons coach two years later. And that ability of some to predict this meteoric rise—which will carry right into the Super Bowl—is a pretty good reminder to everybody that traits in a coach are more than who’s name is hot at a certain time.
  14. Listened on my way to work this morning, and it was a pretty good segment. Talked about the offense, the support system in the front office coming in after the Vick scandal. There was a lot of interesting info there, I recommend a listen for any one interested.
  15. Andy Benoit ‏@Andy_Benoit 6h6 hours ago will tweet film notes on #Falcons O vs. #Broncos D for next little bit. Against #Broncos the #Falcons were very “base” driven. Toilolo and Tamme both played 44+ snaps, DiMarco 27. No. 3 WR Gabriel just 14. #Broncos Film: 2 things defined #Falcons 1st drive: inverted formations (WR’s inside, TE/RB outside) and pick route combinations. Successful #Falcons #Broncos Film: Coleman 48 yd catch was motion to slot empty with terrific natural rub from LOS TE Hooper to beat LB's man coverage. #Broncos #Falcons Film: Talib two superb PDs early vs. Jones in-breaker concepts (including a rub element one). Film: #Broncos conceded FG to #Falcons on 3rd-18, ball at 41-yd-line, playing loose Cover 4. Mile High, yes, but still: 58-yd FG if no gain. RE: previous tweet, it resulted in a Freeman 13-yd dumpoff for 46-yd FG attempt. #Broncos Film: #Falcons emphasis on base personnel eliminated Von Miller from pass rush equation. AS 4-3 SLB he often had coverage. Film: Just like last week, T.J. Ward got snaps as inside slot man defender vs. WRs out of #Broncos “2 man” coverage. #Falcons #Broncos Film: to open 4th series Jones from tight base slot beat Harris on deep post but ball was just barely overthrown. #Broncos Film: Harris on next-play had a sideline PD vs. WR Robinson out of solo man-free coverage. An interception would have gone house. #Falcons #Broncos Film: Jones on deep-sail vs. Harris got a step but Harris had disrupted timing early in route. Jones arrived short of ball #Broncos #Falcons Film: Von Miller destroyed Toilolo in-line blocking handful of times. Film: #Falcons significant snaps of “13” personnel. Decent schematic diversity out of this, more in play designs than formations. Film: Coleman+Freeman gave #Falcons run game sustainability. Consistent positive gains. Critical for maintaining base personnel approach. #Falcons #Broncos Film: RT Schraeder had some trouble in protection when forced to move feet against likes of Miller, Barrett. #Falcons Film: LT Matthews looked very good in pass pro. Athletic through balance and leverage. Made hand usage more controlled. #Broncos Film: on Coleman long TD catch vs. LB Marshall, FB DiMarco aligned out wide. #Falcons influencing geometry/matchups via formation. #Falcons Film: FB DiMarco split out wide on a number of snaps, not just the Coleman long TD catch. #Falcons #Broncos Film: Coleman 49 yds was another motion to spread empty slot (this time weak side). Easily burned LB Todd Davis. #Falcons Film: Ryan threw with accuracy all over the field. And more often than you might guess, he was working out of a collapsing pocket. #Broncos Film: #Falcons D was sound in its predominant Cover 3 over first several drives. #Falcons #Broncos Film: Trufant matched to Sanders, Alford to Thomas. (Many would have guessed Trufant to be on Thomas.) Film: #Falcons nickel DL is Freeney and Beasley outside, Clayborn and Shelby inside. At times you’ll see them move Beasley and Shelby around Film: #Broncos did not have to cater offense much to Lynch. Their system is inherently QB-friendly. #Falcons #Broncos Film: Beasley’s first two sacks were both speed/dip rushes around squatty RT Sambrailo. #Broncos #Falcons Film: Sanders 26 yds X-iso post/slot crosser combo (Cover 3 beater). Lynch did not throw it well but processed the concept #Falcons #Broncos Film: Allen INT was Lynch rookie mistake. FS Allen was on hash to side of Thomas’s deep post. That’s checkdown indicator. #Broncos #Falcons Film: Beasley 3rd sack (and 2nd FF) bad play call – 7-step drop on scat protection (5 man) with your rookie QB coming off an INT and your RT struggling all day. #Broncos Film: Kubiak has a tendency: when young QB is starting a drive under mental pressure, he’ll put him in a seven-step drop. Film: #Falcons entire pass rush was much livelier. Saw flashes of speed and power from multiple sources #Falcons Film: Neal flashed in coverage. Good sense for spacing and timing. Man and especially high-hole Cover 3. #Broncos Film: Lynch was not sharp throwing the ball. Location off too many times (duress factored – welcome to the NFL). #Broncos Film: Sambrailo will likely have to move to guard if he’s to have chance at a long NFL career. #Falcons Film: Grady Jarrett stood out – zone run D and also activity vs. pass (including a screen pass IDing). Film: #Falcons like to spy semi-mobile QBs on 3rd-long when they’re in “2 man.” Beasley did that vs. Lynch at one point. #Broncos Film: Lynch wasn't horrendous reading field, but inconsistent transitioning off of covered initial reads. Not uncommon w/ young QB. #Broncos Film: most of #Falcons 6 sacks were about DL beating OL (Beasley vs. Sambrailo especially), not about Lynch holding ball.
  16. Seems like it should be getting harder and harder to be a Shanahan detractor... http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2016/10/06/kyle-shanahan-nfl-coaching-carousel-list-notebook Thu Oct. 6, 2016 -- by Albert Breer Kyle Shanahan and the Evolution of a Young Coach Coaching is fun again for Kyle Shanahan, although for a much different reason than it was almost a decade ago when he called his first NFL play. “When I started in Houston, those first two years, it was so much fun,” the Falcons' offensive coordinator said, driving home Tuesday night. “We were third and fourth in the league those years—Matt Schaub was at the top of his game; we had Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter. We had a ton of success. It was all I knew. We threw it a ton. And after coaching those guys, I thought I could do it with anyone. “Then I got to Washington. Different quarterbacks, different personnel, I had to do it different with Donovan [McNabb] and Rex [Grossman], and completely different with Robert [Griffin]. And I learned you have to find different ways to succeed. In Cleveland I had to adjust. In Atlanta we’re running different stuff. I’m fortunate enough to have experienced hard times and be forced to find different ways.” We’ll start with job turnover, which is already in the news. Every year it happens earlier. Every year it seems to be harder to find candidates. So I give you Kyle Shanahan. The 36-year-old is now in his ninth season as an offensive coordinator. He’s served in that role for four different teams. And not only is this Falcons group on pace to be the sixth of those nine units he’s guided into the Top 10 in total offense, and fourth he’s landed in the Top 5, but it’s so good that it may just erase the perception problem its architect has fought for years. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and company are averaging 478.8 yards per game, which is 83.0 yards better than anyone else. Ryan leads the NFL in yards, TDs, passer rating and completion percentage. Jones is leading the league in receiving yards, but the Faclons also have diversified, with five guys registering more than 10 catches. And Atlanta is sixth in rushing offense, with Devonta Freeman averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Those are the nuts and bolts. But now, all these years after first becoming a play-caller at the age of 28, a wiser Shanahan knows there’s more to the step he may well take come winter than the fireworks we’ve seen from the Falcons’ offense. And that’s why he was a little hesitant to even talk about himself the other night. But yes, he understands that he—like a lot of others who work in the family business and rise to prominence at a young age, in any line of work—hasn’t always been perceived in the most positive light. “Everyone has their own opinion,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people know me. There are misconceptions. I know it’s not all great. But I can’t control it. I’ve gotten better, trying not to worry about it as much. I know I’m a good person. I know I’m honest with people. As a coordinator, things don’t always go as well with every single play. I don’t hide things.” So there were the highly publicized issues with McNabb and Griffin in D.C. There were the comments from Roddy White in March. And usually, the buzzword—nepotism—was attached to them. Then there’s the other side of it. How Alex Mack followed him to Atlanta. How Grossman trailed him from Houston to Washington. How Kirk Cousins felt about him. How Ryan and Jones have thrived, the same way Schaub and Johnson once did. “He’s extremely smart and extremely competitive,” said one high-ranking official from a rival team who knows Shanahan well. “He learned a lot from the Washington and Cleveland experiences. He’s got a good mind for putting players in positions to succeed and using them to their strengths.” One of his former quarterbacks echoed the sentiment, calling Shanahan a “very smart guy. Always has his mind on football.” As such, Shanahan’s system has evolved—and in regards to the idea of nepotism, it never really was a mirror image of his dad’s system. He took most of a complex passing game, at least early on, from his time with Jon Gruden in Tampa, which he then melded with famed line coach Alex Gibbs’s run game in Houston. It’s grown since, as Shanahan adjusted it for different personnel. In Atlanta it’s meant an early focus on the short, precision game that Ryan excels with, and growing options around Jones, which helped set the stage for the sixth-year star’s intergalactic day against Carolina on Sunday. “People talk about players fitting a system—that’s overrated,” Shanahan said. “Good players fit everyone’s system, a good player will fit your system. Julio fits any system. Our tight ends, Mohamed Sanu, Matt Ryan, they should fit your system. So what is our system? Yeah, we have outside zone, and play-action and keepers off it. “But coaches need to adjust their system. It changes game-to-game, year-to-year. You see New England, if it’s [Tom] Brady, they’re not running [the quarterback] keeper, but you have the other two running bootlegs. You have to match what your guys do, and make it work for them. That’s how you give everyone the best chance.” That is the result of experience Shanahan couldn’t have had back in Houston, and it should make him a hot commodity in a few months, so long as the Falcons can keep it going.
  17. Just a little blurb in Peter King's most recent mailbag wherein he recaps his travels through training camp season. http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2016/08/23/nfl-training-camp-tour-jacksonville-jaguars-peter-king-mailbag
  18. Matt is talking to Peter King on MMQB Facebook live if you are interested
  19. http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2016/02/17/nfl-free-agency
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