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Three Questions The Falcons Must Answer In 2015


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Three questions the Falcons must answer in 2015

By Dave Choate

@TheFalcoholic on May 12, 2015

If the Falcons want to be great, or even good, they'll need to address these lingering concerns.

The Falcons are still months away from playing actual football, but it's never too early to dive in on what they'll need to do in order to be successful during the 2015 season. After seeing the draft class, considering Dan Quinn's rough outline of a plan for this football team and looking at how poorly they fared the last two years, I have three questions I'll need to see answered before I can feel truly confident that the Falcons will be a good football team this season.

Let's break 'em down.

Can they rush the passer?

This is a big one. Adding Vic Beasley to an improved front seven that now includes Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn, O'Brien Schofield and Justin Durant should open up opportunities that simply were not there a year ago. The question is whether it will be enough to give the Falcons a legitimately useful pass rush, or if they'll be just intermittently effective.

The season may swing on the answer to that question, because this defense isn't elite otherwise. The secondary promises to be good and the run defense should be improved, but the team's inability to pressure quarterbacks on third downs—especially long ones—has killed them in the past. If that doesn't change, teams are still going to be able to punish this defense, and the offense is going to have to carry a heavy burden once again.

If Beasley can spin up quickly and Clayborn and the holdovers show improvement, we might just see our first decent pass rush in Atlanta since...well, a while.

Can they run the football?

On paper, the answer is "yes." Certainly at a better clip than they have the last two seasons.

The answer is a little more complicated. You never quite know what rookie backs will do, even ones as talented as Tevin Coleman. Devonta Freeman is coming off an uninspiring rookie season as a runner, largely due to a makeshift offensive line. Antone Smith is recovering from a major injury, and the team may be counting on a fullback as its short yardage option. For this to work, Coleman will have to be good right away, and Freeman will have to be better.

Oh, and the line. Assuming health and a successful wholesale rollout of more advanced zone blocking principles, this line should be able to open holes in a way it hasn't for several years now. We'll have to see this unit get to the season intact and see how the trouble spot at left guard is filled before we declare victory, however.

Will they be better coached?

I think we're all taking this one for granted, which is natural considering the strength of the staff assembled and the competence and gregarious nature Dan Quinn has shown thus far. But it's still a question we need to have answered.

Mike Smith was continually dinged for his clock management, his decision-making in pressurized situations and for the way the team deployed its players. We're assuming all of those will be either minimized or absent under Quinn and his staff, but considering Quinn is going to be a first-time head coach, it's not exactly safe to assume that just yet.

Obviously, if this team can run the ball better, actually rush the passer and cut out some of the boneheaded errors that sadly marred Mike Smith and staff's last couple of years in Atlanta, this team will be at least marginally improved over 2013 and 2014. I'm optimistic, but not certain just yet.

What questions must the Falcons answer, in your opinion?

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I'm only going to address number 3.

I've never seen Quinn coach a defense for a full season and obviously I've never seen him as a HC so I'm going off of what I've read and seen in press conferences and the like.

When you watch his press conferences his answers to questions are almost instantaneous,clear and concise.I think that is because he has gone through those questions in his own head in his evaluation of the team.I noticed a lot of the time he will even start shaking his head halfway through the reporters question because he already has the answer.

Quinn strikes me as the kind of guy who lives for those pressure moments.The fact that he studied enough film to pick up some kind of tell on Peyton Manning speaks to his preparation.I just don't think you're going to catch him in a situation during a game that he hasn't mentally prepared for a million times in his own head.To me this means no more stupid timeouts or going/not going for it on 4th at stupid times.I could be absolutely wrong but it is what I see at this point in time.

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1) I think we can rush the passer at an average or slightly below level, we all know Beasley's going to be a wildcard his rookie year, but Schofield's certainly proved when he's gotten opportunities that he can get the job done, and Adrian Clayborn is if nothing else a solid pass rusher, Babineaux's always been a good pass rusher, aside from those 3-4 there's going to be some problems though. Malliciah Goodman's only managed 2 hits and 0 sacks the past two years, Kroy's Kroy.

2) That's the biggest question, really depends on Freeman, we've seen a lot of upside and a lot of downside from him as a runner. Shanahan should certainly help, I think we should be able to do it just well enough to take a little bit of attention off our passing game.

3) I mean, could they really not be? Smitty did a lot of great things for us, but at the end of his time with us he did some really weird things, was worse at clock management than most madden players, it was hard to watch.

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I'm only going to address number 3.

I've never seen Quinn coach a defense for a full season and obviously I've never seen him as a HC so I'm going off of what I've read and seen in press conferences and the like.

When you watch his press conferences his answers to questions are almost instantaneous,clear and concise.I think that is because he has gone through those questions in his own head in his evaluation of the team.I noticed a lot of the time he will even start shaking his head halfway through the reporters question because he already has the answer.

Quinn strikes me as the kind of guy who lives for those pressure moments.The fact that he studied enough film to pick up some kind of tell on Peyton Manning speaks to his preparation.I just don't think you're going to catch him in a situation during a game that he hasn't mentally prepared for a million times in his own head.To me this means no more stupid timeouts or going/not going for it on 4th based at stupid times.I could be absolutely wrong but it is what I see at this point in time.

This is what I wanted with the last guy. A definitive, confidence demeanor. It's not arrogant. He's very confident and it comes off immediate. He knows what he wants and plans on doing. He's not going to have that constipated look on his face in the fourth quarter because he knows he has horses in his stable to ride in the crunch.

The man is going to have this team prepared and we will truly see a well coached team. People pointed to penalties to show we were well coached. Some of us saw through that as BS and saw us as docile. Most hated it when the media, especially ex-players, called it out too. Look at how much Carroll loved those close games and how he was celebrating like he just won the Super Bowl himself in some of those close regular season games. One thing I know for sure, this will be a passionate bunch. There won't be anymore "This is just another game" when it comes to the Saints neither. That Seahawks/Niners rivalry was very real because there was equal amounts of talent and hate.

I can't wait to see a Quinn led team.

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1) I think this is everyone's worry (for good reason) but Quinn's impact and Hageman's growth along with Babineux going back to DT and the additions we made over the off-season should at least are QB pressure average (which is a huge upgrade to what we've had in the past)

2) I love what our backfield looks like going into this season, so much power and so much home run ability. I think Coleman is going to get significant carries his rookie year, but I think Freeman is going to be a GREAT compliment to Coleman and sprinkle in some Antone Smith and you have yourself a solid backfield. The OL worries me a tad just for the simply fact that I don't know who the LG is going to be, but it seems like the coaching staff doesn't seem like LG is a need since they keep looking at all of these RT, other than that I'm excited for us to go to the ZBS and for our offense ot be more balanced.

3) I definitely think they will be better coached, I loved what Smitty did for us but it seems like he lost his way the past two years. Quinn is such a fiery upbeat guy who the players seem to have grown to already. That, and I think Quinn just has what it takes to be the next great coach. I've always wanted a coach like Quinn, I'm excited to see what he does. That and it seems like our practices seem entertaining now with the music blaring, MMA training and rugby style techniques, seems like he's sticking to his ways and is growing as a HC !

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2) I love what our backfield looks like going into this season, so much power and so much home run ability. I think Coleman is going to get significant carries his rookie year, but I think Freeman is going to be a GREAT compliment to Coleman and sprinkle in some Antone Smith and you have yourself a solid backfield. The OL worries me a tad just for the simply fact that I don't know who the LG is going to be, but it seems like the coaching staff doesn't seem like LG is a need since they keep looking at all of these RT, other than that I'm excited for us to go to the ZBS and for our offense ot be more balanced.

I am still apprehensive about the "power" of our RBs. The Falcons do not yet have what I consider to be a true big-bruiser power back, someone who will consistently pick-up first downs or TDs in short-yardage situations. The OL still worries me also, not only as to who will be starting at LG and RT, but also how long it will take them to become proficient in the new zone-blocking scheme.
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CBSsports really thought that Atlanta significantly improved its pass rush. They rated Atlanta as one of the 7 teams who best improved a position group. From the article:

6. Falcons pass rush

Added: Vic Beasley (Round 1), Adrian Clayborn (FA), Grady Jarret (Round 5), Brooks Reed (FA), O'Brien Schofield (FA)

The Falcons weren't scaring many quarterbacks or taking many to the turf in 2014. Per Pro Football Focus, they registered just 26 sacks and 249 total QB pressures. For intra-division perspective, the Saints had 35 sacks and 264 total pressures. The Panthers? A whopping 41 sacks as part of 274 total pressures. Even the 2-14 Buccaneers had 41 sacks and 226 total pressures.

You didn't have to be GM Thomas Dimitroff or assistant GM Scott Pioli, who now manages scouting and the draft, to realize the pass-rush needed an sizable upgrade.

The signings in free agency of Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed and O'Brien Schofield aren't defense-transforming, but they're veterans who'll add situational depth on the Falcons' front seven.

In the draft, Vic Beasley, a springy, Von Miller-clone, fell to Dan Quinn's squadron in Round 1, and someway, somehow, the Geno Atkins-esque Grady Jarrett was available at the beginning of Round 5.

Dimitroff and Co. spent no time trading up to snag the "smaller" but ultra-productive technician.

The Falcons probably won't lead the NFL in sacks or QB pressures in 2015, but the personnel department did admirable work boosting the team's ability to disrupt opposing signal-callers.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/25183480/nfl-offseason-the-7-most-improved-position-groups-and-5-most-depleted

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(1) the big unknown is what kind of HC will Quinn become? He's A career assistant, is he ready for a more leadership and management role?

(2) can we stay healthy, which was team's biggest downfall past two years? Compounding this huge concern is many of team's FA signings are coming off injury years as well

(3) can team get back to what made them successful offensively as a more run-pass balanced attack, instead off a pass happy offense?

Edited by Vandy
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Sorry guys but for me this article is hot garbage really this guy thinks we need to fix OMG really he thinks no$hit sherlock.

I try to take some of these scribes seriously but when they come up with articles that state the obvious it just leaves me scratching my head.

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The O-Line is the biggest question for me at this point. The majority of the starters from last year are recovering from major injuries and will be asked to adapt to a new coordinator and scheme.

Keeping Matt Ryan upright is paramount and a solid run game helps but that falls back to the O-Line too.

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CBSsports really thought that Atlanta significantly improved its pass rush. They rated Atlanta as one of the 7 teams who best improved a position group. From the article:

6. Falcons pass rush

Added: Vic Beasley (Round 1), Adrian Clayborn (FA), Grady Jarret (Round 5), Brooks Reed (FA), O'Brien Schofield (FA)

The Falcons weren't scaring many quarterbacks or taking many to the turf in 2014. Per Pro Football Focus, they registered just 26 sacks and 249 total QB pressures. For intra-division perspective, the Saints had 35 sacks and 264 total pressures. The Panthers? A whopping 41 sacks as part of 274 total pressures. Even the 2-14 Buccaneers had 41 sacks and 226 total pressures.

You didn't have to be GM Thomas Dimitroff or assistant GM Scott Pioli, who now manages scouting and the draft, to realize the pass-rush needed an sizable upgrade.

The signings in free agency of Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed and O'Brien Schofield aren't defense-transforming, but they're veterans who'll add situational depth on the Falcons' front seven.

In the draft, Vic Beasley, a springy, Von Miller-clone, fell to Dan Quinn's squadron in Round 1, and someway, somehow, the Geno Atkins-esque Grady Jarrett was available at the beginning of Round 5.

Dimitroff and Co. spent no time trading up to snag the "smaller" but ultra-productive technician.

The Falcons probably won't lead the NFL in sacks or QB pressures in 2015, but the personnel department did admirable work boosting the team's ability to disrupt opposing signal-callers.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/25183480/nfl-offseason-the-7-most-improved-position-groups-and-5-most-depleted

Barring some unforeseen injuries, the pass rush will be much improved. The thing is it's a well diverse group. Beasley and Jarrett are speed, Clayborn and Hageman are power, Reed and Babs are a good blend of both.

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