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Falcons In-Season News

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Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox puts blame on himself

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox is a no-nonsense guy who speaks his mind with passion.

Such was the case Thursday as Cox reflected on his unit’s performance through 15 games. The Falcons sit at the bottom of the league at 19 sacks with just one game to go. Rather than point to any talent deficiency or misfits for the scheme, Cox put the bulk of the blame for the line’s inconsistent pressure on himself.

"I can coach better," Cox told "Sometimes I’m too hard on the guys. Sometimes, my expectations are too much for a player. Sometimes I expect more out of them than they expect for themselves. If you’re not careful, that can become divisive. You can want it for them, but they ultimately have to do it."

Cox also regretted the positioning of rookie pass-rusher Vic Beasley. The first-round draft pick from Clemson leads the team with four sacks but hasn’t been dominant. Beasley refused to use playing with a torn labrum all season as an excuse.

"I could have done a better job moving Vic from the right side to the left side earlier," Cox said of Beasley’s transition midway through. "That’s what I’m talking about when I say doing a better job of coaching. I could have helped this guy along a little better seeing it. It took me a little longer to see it than I probably needed to. I think he can utilize his speed better against right tackles in this league than left tackles."

Cox also admitted mishandling veteran Adrian Clayborn, who rushed more inside from defensive tackle than at defensive end.

"I think it was probably dumb on my part, to be honest," Cox said. "I waiting too long to pull the trigger to put him outside. I kick myself with A.C. because I knew what he was. I coached him in Tampa, so I knew he could work outside, but I hesitated too long.

"The plus side of that is Grady [Jarrett] showing up and becoming the player that he’s become. It’s allowed me to have the confidence to move [Clayborn] outside."

Cox has been satisfied with the play of run-stuffers Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson in the middle of the defense, although Soliai (calf) is now on injured reserve.

"I think the biggest thing is you talk about those guys losing weight, losing 25-30 pounds, and getting down to a weight that they could control, and you could see the athleticism and the power," Cox said. "You could see all the things that we liked about them initially in free agency. You saw it was tough for people to run inside on us for the majority of the year."

Cox noted how Jonathan Babineaux's value extends beyond the field.

"I think the biggest thing is Babs is a calming influence," Cox said. "He’s been a leader. To go in and ask a man to go from being a starter and for him to embrace it and say, 'I’ll do whatever to be a part of it.' He’s been a major contributor to what success we’ve had and possibly will have because he’s teaching the young guys, 'It’s not about me. It’s about us. It’s about the team.'"

One of those young guys who needed to learn was

"And people don't realize how stressful of a job being an NFL coach is. They look at all the glamour, but they don't look at the 6 a.m. to 9:30 nights. They don't realize your job depends on how well a guy does and this guy don't give a **** because he's chasing girls and hanging out all night. It's a stressful job now."

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Falcons' Tevin Coleman (concussion) out again after shower fall

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman will miss Sunday's season finale against the New Orleans Saints while still recovering from a concussion suffered after slipping in the shower.

Coleman, who went through drills on a side field Friday, suffered the injury at the team facility two days before Christmas and missed last week's matchup with Carolina. The third-round draft pick from Indiana will end the season with 392 yards and a touchdown on 87 carries in 12 games played. Coleman missed two games earlier in the season with a rib injury.

Rookie RB Tevin Coleman is done for the season with 392 yards. Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Without Coleman, the Falcons will turn to undrafted rookie Terron Ward to back up starter Devonta Freeman Sunday. Freeman is 20 yards shy from reaching 1,000 for the season.

Every other Falcon on the injury report is listed as probable, including quarterback Matt Ryan (hip), wide receiver Roddy White (ankle), and Freeman (knee). The list also includes the following players: cornerback Robert Alford(ankle), wide receiver Eric Weems (concussion), nose tackle Grady Jarrett(shoulder), wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester (toe), right guard Chris Chester (shoulder), linebacker Paul Worrilow (knee), linebacker Justin Durant(hip), and cornerback Phillip Adams (hamstring).

In other news, Quinn said Gino Gradowski got the bulk of the reps at center this week ahead of Mike Person, who has had snap issues.

The Falcons will attempt to finish the season on a three-game winning streak and with a 9-7 record. They loss to the Saints, 31-21, back in Week 6.

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Dirk Koetter: Roddy White single-most competitive player

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Dirk Koetter has been in the NFL since 2007, so he's acquired a good feel for the players he's coached and coached against.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator makes reference to toughness, only one player comes to mind. It's the same player who was an integral part of his offenses for three seasons in Atlanta.

"I tell friends of mine all the time that Roddy White is the single-most competitive football player I've ever met in my life," Koetter said. "I've just never been around a guy that his desire to win and compete would let him overcome injuries. He would do whatever it takes -- whether it be blocking, catching, running with the football -- just whatever you needed to help you win a game, Roddy would try to do it."

Even though he's coming to the end of his career, Roddy White has proven he can still be a reliable pass-catching threat. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Koetter used an anecdote to illustrate his point. He recalled a ritual the Falcons had during their 13-3 season in 2012, when they made it to the NFC Championship Game.

"Every week, Smitty [coach Mike Smith] would have the offensive coaches pick a game-ball winner, and I swear to God I think Roddy got the vote 11 out of 13 times," Koetter said. "He didn't always get the game ball because we wanted to spread it around. But up in the coaches' room upstairs, we were saying, 'OK, who else are we going to give this game ball to besides Roddy?'"

It might be fitting for White to earn the game ball following Sunday's season finale against the New Orleans Saints. There is speculation that it could be his last game as a Falcon, though White in intent on playing out his contract through 2017 and playing his final year in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Although White's cap number is just over $6 million for next year, he doesn't believe financial matters will have anything to do with the decision to keep him.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan already is planning for next year, and it's been well-documented how White is not an ideal fit in Shanahan's scheme. But the 34-year-old White showed during last week's upset of Carolina how he could still be a reliable pass-catching threat with five catches for 67 yards, including four first downs.

Whatever happens, White appreciates the respect he's earned over the years from the fans cheering "Rod-dy, Rod-dy," to his teammates, to coaches such as Koetter.

"Dirk's my guy, but he's watched me and how I grinded over the years, just dealing with injuries and going out there playing football," White said. "He knows me in and out as a player; my strengths and my weaknesses. He put me in a lot of positions to make plays in his offense, and I had a lot of success. It's just kudos to him to say I'm one of the toughest guys he's ever been around, that he's ever coached. That speaks volumes of how I've just tried to come to work and be on my game to help our team win."

White, a 2005 first-round draft pick out of UAB, is the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards (10,853), receptions (807) and total touchdowns (63). He had six consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards receiving from 2007-2012.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said White is "the best" and has been for a long time. Wide receiver Julio Jones said, "Roddy's definitely still a playmaker." Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he appreciates the leadership White has displayed here at the end of the season.

At the beginning of the year, some folks questioned White after he lobbied for more touches following a 5-0 start. He's never been one to bite his tongue.

That's an aspect Koetter always appreciated about White.

"I always liked players who could tell you the truth," Koetter said. "Sometimes after an emotional game, Roddy sometimes could say some things. But Roddy knows football, now. Roddy really understands football. If Roddy told me something like, 'We need to throw it more' or 'We need to run it more,' I'd have to give it a good hard look because a lot of times, Roddy was probably right.

"I felt like Roddy always was going to be honest with you, so you'd better be honest with him."

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