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Nolan Finds Promise In Struggling Atlanta Defense


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http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nolan-finds-promise-struggling-atlanta-165044817--nfl.html

Nolan finds promise in struggling Atlanta defense

By GEORGE HENRY (Associated Press)3 hours agoAP - Sports



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Mike Nolan knows his second season as Falcons defensive coordinator has been a borderline disaster.

He's not sure if coach Mike Smith and Atlanta's front office will want him back next year, but the uncertainty hasn't stopped Nolan from tinkering with his personnel and schemes to find the right formula.

Asked this week if he plans to return to the Falcons in 2014 after signing a contract extension last January, Nolan says the decision is out of his hands.

''That's the team's decision, not mine,'' he said, ''so that's a question for later.''

Nolan has worked in the NFL 27 years, spending nearly four full seasons as San Francisco's head coach and 15 as a defensive coordinator.

He's been in the league every year since 1987, so Nolan is confident a team will want his services, but he sounds as if he believes the Falcons will bring him back.

''It might not show, but I've really been pleased with some of the game plans as far as giving our players a chance to succeed,'' Nolan said. ''And so going down the road, I think there are some things we'll be able to use in the future.''

That's not to suggest the poor results haven't tried his patience.

Veteran defenders Asante Samuel and Osi Umenyiora have struggled all season. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed seven games with a foot injury, and defensive end Kroy Biermann was placed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 3.

But several young players have emerged as steady contributors to give Nolan hope.

Rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant, a first-round draft pick, has started every game. Rookie cornerbackRobert Alford, a second-round pick, made his starting debut in last week's 22-21 loss at Green Bay as Samuel, who ranks fifth among active players with 51 career interceptions, stood on the sideline for the entire game.

Undrafted rookie free agent linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu took starting jobs from established veterans Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas earlier this year.

And rookie ends Mallaciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga and rookie safety Zeke Motta have shown promise while second-year end Jonathan Massaquoi is listed atop the depth chart.

Nolan believes that Trufant and Alford have a chance to become NFL stars, but the coordinator went to great lengths to praise general manager Thomas Dimitroff's other picks in the 2013 draft.

''I think a couple of them will be upper echelon guys,'' Nolan said. ''It'd be nice to think more than that, but if you can't half a dozen solid guys in a draft, you've done a pretty **** good job.

The results, however, have been disappointing as the Falcons (3-10) prepare to host the Washington Redskins (3-10) on Sunday.

Atlanta ranks last in third-down efficiency, second-worst against the run, third-worst in takeaways and 29th in scoring average.

While advancing to the NFC title game last season, the Falcons were only 24th in total yards, 25th in third-down efficiency and 27th in sacks per passing attempt, but they ranked fourth in scoring and tied for fifth in takeaways.

''This year we just didn't make the plays most of the time to win the game,'' Samuel said. ''That was the difference last year when we were on the other end of the stick when we were making plays to win the game.''

Against the Redskins, Atlanta will face second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins following the benching of Robert Griffin III.

Cousins gave Washington a boost last year in a home loss to the Falcons, replacing the injured Griffin during the game to complete 5 of 9 passes for 111 yards with a 77-yard touchdown to Santana Moss. Cousins also threw a pair of interceptions.

''We busted a coverage (on the long TD pass), but he saw it right away and threw right down the middle,'' Nolan said. ''He's very capable. I know they like him a lot and have a lot of confidence in him.''

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I don't know what to think of Nolan anymore. I know in SF that he was the HC and GM, and that he brought in a lot of good talent. However, his defenses were never really that good there, and he was not a good HC either, but he did draft well so you know the guy can scout talent to a degree. He's been around a while and has coached some outstanding defensive players, but he has also bounced around a lot. All I know is that our defense looks bad most games, and plays rather stupid most of the time, and they never really make any improvements. We see poor tackling and bad decisions made by veterans who should know better. So what does that say about Nolan?

Edited by 4dabirds
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Give him more players that fit his style and then you'll the notice the difference....

This is the silver lining in all this for me. We have some solid and promising players this year and should sure up a few things going into next year.

The focus on the lines and our young leaders are going to make the '14 season for us.

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I had high hopes for a dramatic change from our pathetic, passive BVG defense when Nolan came in. Instead except for a few new wrinkles now and again, this mediocre defense has actually regressed. With key upgrades this off-season and the young starters, this Falcon defense should be able to rank somewhere around 15th-20th in the league next year. If Nolan's defense can't manage to reach middle-of-the-pack status after three seasons, then he has to go along with the rest of this staff after 2014. Rob Ryan transformed that Saints defense immediately.

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I don't know what to think of Nolan anymore. I know in SF that he was the HC and GM, and that he brought in a lot of good talent. However, his defenses were never really that good there, and he was not a good HC either, but he did draft well so you know the guy can scout talent to a degree. He's been around a while and has coached some outstanding defensive players, but he has also bounced around a lot. All I know is that our defense looks bad most games, and plays rather stupid most of the time, and they never really make any improvements. We see poor tackling and bad decisions made by veterans who should know better. So what does that say about Nolan?

Can't agree my friend I thought Nolan's schemes against good to great QB's were on the $$$$ last year.

Problem being this year is injury and rookie talent if he gets a couple more guys up front I'm pretty sure he can create a really attacking based defense that dictates to offenses and he'll still be able to exercise that creativity with scheme like we saw last year.

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Rob Ryan turned around the worst defense in NFL history with less talent and less time.

While i agree our talent on defense isn't elite, it is better than what NO has, so I cant play the talent card too hard. You can also argue that NO had worse injuries on defense than we did too.

If they move on from Nolan, which I am fine if he stays or goes, I hope they take a hard look at Rex Ryan for DC. We are in the right time roster wise to adjust scheme, and he would be extra motivated to out do his brother IMO.

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Rob Ryan turned around the worst defense in NFL history with less talent and less time.

While i agree our talent on defense isn't elite, it is better than what NO has, so I cant play the talent card too hard. You can also argue that NO had worse injuries on defense than we did too.

If they move on from Nolan, which I am fine if he stays or goes, I hope they take a hard look at Rex Ryan for DC. We are in the right time roster wise to adjust scheme, and he would be extra motivated to out do his brother IMO.

Until they win a decent road game, they're paper.

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Guest Negatorris

Rob Ryan turned around the worst defense in NFL history with less talent and less time.

While i agree our talent on defense isn't elite, it is better than what NO has, so I cant play the talent card too hard. You can also argue that NO had worse injuries on defense than we did too.

If they move on from Nolan, which I am fine if he stays or goes, I hope they take a hard look at Rex Ryan for DC. We are in the right time roster wise to adjust scheme, and he would be extra motivated to out do his brother IMO.

Less talent?

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Rob Ryan turned around the worst defense in NFL history with less talent and less time.

While i agree our talent on defense isn't elite, it is better than what NO has, so I cant play the talent card too hard. You can also argue that NO had worse injuries on defense than we did too.

If they move on from Nolan, which I am fine if he stays or goes, I hope they take a hard look at Rex Ryan for DC. We are in the right time roster wise to adjust scheme, and he would be extra motivated to out do his brother IMO.

And why was he let go in Dallas?

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I hope we keep him, got to have a little patience with this young defense and not go off half cocked. Nolan is a very good D coordinator and the same guy that stymied Peyton Manning last year. And despite the struggles the D has given us several chances to win games this year but the offense failed us. Hard for a defense to prevail when you have an offense that is incapable of scoring in the 3rd quarter.

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And why was he let go in Dallas?

Every time I see the Saints playing well on defense, it's because they found a hidden gem in Junior Gallete. Their DL is a lot better with him playing, and he went undrafted. He to me is more of an impact than Rex Ryan, but I'm sure Ryan has a lot to do with their current success as well.

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Put the blame where it belongs: The DL.

Keep Nolan, ditch the DL. I would keep Peters because he is young and versatile.

Sorry to say the it is time to part ways with Babs. He has been the best defender on some very crappy ATL defenses. Unfortunately, father time is knocking. We don't want to be holding a contract when Father Time finally comes in.

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I hope we keep him, got to have a little patience with this young defense and not go off half cocked. Nolan is a very good D coordinator and the same guy that stymied Peyton Manning last year. And despite the struggles the D has given us several chances to win games this year but the offense failed us. Hard for a defense to prevail when you have an offense that is incapable of scoring in the 3rd quarter.

Peyton Manning can be stymied by anyone with a good game plan, not to mention Peyton was still kinda fresh off his injury and playing with a new team.

It's hard for an offense to prevail when your defense is one of the worst on 3rd downs and can't get off the field. Both offense and defense have to work in concert together to have success. If the offense can't score a lot of points, then it must eat clock with a good run game, which is what the Falcons don't do. A defense must get off the field on 3rd downs and not get all gassed from the opposing O extending drives, which is what the Falcons don't do.

Edited by 4dabirds
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We need a DL like crazy...havent had a viable starting quality DL across the board since 2006. Too bad that team blew because of Vick's penchant for laziness, poor WR's, and a ridiculous injury bug on the DL.

Since then, it has been John Abe + (crickets) at bookend, Babs and some odds/ends rotation at NT.

Anderson sucked/sucks, Davis was below average, Edwards was a lazy mofo, Kroy is decent rotational guy but not a mainline starter, Massa/Mopanga/Goodmen are all extremely underwhelming but very young and have plenty of room to grow.

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Peyton Manning can be stymied by anyone with a good game plan, not to mention Peyton was still kinda fresh off his injury and playing with a new team.

It's hard for an offense to prevail when your defense is one of the worst on 3rd downs and can't get off the field. Both offense and defense have to work in concert together to have success. If the offense can't score a lot of points, then it must eat clock with a good run game, which is what the Falcons don't do. A defense must get off the field on 3rd downs and not get all gassed from the opposing O extending drives, which is what the Falcons don't do.

I agree with you on all this except the bolded. Manning is rarely stymied the way we did him. Consider this as well, we are 27th in punting and 22nd in time of possession. Can't score in the 3rd quarter. Makes it hard on a young defense. I just don't see Nolan as a problem, I see him as an ASSET. He is having to play more zone this year because we cant get a pass rush. We got him the cover corners he needed now is time to get him a D line and he can implement the press/man scheme he wants. You can not do that if you cant get consistent front 4 pressure.

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Safe from our standpoint, but does he want to coach this bunch of retreads and risk further sully of his reputation?

If I'm Nolan I gamble on a GM change or hope to get fired. The problem with Nolan is we lost Lofton/Abe on his watch...players we've needed

since he got the job. While Bierman has been elevated to a "D" need/must while not filling the basic criteria per his position...pass rush.

Truth is Nolan sabotaged himself or was dimitroffed.

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Nolan is fine. He's had a good amount of rookies and a garbage Dline to work with this season.

And on the ryan/saints topic: it's easy for a new coordinator to come in and have success right away, even with no-name players. The rest of the league hasn't seen the team run a different scheme, so it's like a curve ball (much like how koetter and Nolan had success in their first season here with no run game and no dline). We'll see if ryan has consistent success in new orleans.

And P.S. The saints D isn't that good on the road

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