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Dan Quinn Is Responsible For Newfound Pulse In Falcons' Camp


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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The only thing missing from Atlanta's preseason practices are glow sticks and a disco ball.

Taking a page from Seattle's Pete Carroll, new Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has radically changed the environment in which the club trains. Not only is music blaring throughout the sessions, the tunes are being spun by an actual DJ (Jay Envy) from a local Atlanta radio station.

"It's an experience every day with the DJ out at practice and hearing some new music," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "It's been fun. (Quinn) has done a great job of connecting to our young guys and really bringing the best out of everybody on a daily basis."

Quinn said that wanting a "high-energy" practice environment isn't the only reasons for the sonic blasts. Quinn wants to prepare his players for the game-day environment in which music and crowd noise are usually deafening both at home and on the road. That includes the defense, which must find non-verbal ways to communicate when fans inside the Georgia Dome are booing the opposing offense.

"With the coaches, you don't want to hear everybody saying, 'Move over! Back up! Do this!'" said Quinn, who was Seattle's defensive coordinator the past two seasons. "Let's find out what the players know.

"In camp sometimes, you can do a lot of coaching with yelling out what to do on every play. Then you get in the game and it's like, 'No wonder (the player) didn't know what to do.'"

Falcons center Joe Hawley notices a positive difference in the tempo of the defense, which is where Quinn spends the majority of practice coaching.

"Those guys are playing with a lot more energy than last year," Hawley said. "It's fun to see them attack the ball."

Fun for all: Quinn's enthusiasm has quickly struck a positive chord with Falcons players who were accustomed to the more buttoned-down (albeit still largely successful) style of predecessor Mike Smith.

"Every day guys are like, 'Man, is this real? Is this really happening?'" said outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, who followed Quinn from Seattle as a free agent. "I'm like, 'Yeah.' He wants you to be loose and have fun.

"He talks about it all the time. He doesn't want guys to come out and play uptight. He wants you to be able to turn it loose and let 'er rip.

You're playing with your brothers. It's the game you've been playing since we were kids. Nothing has changed."

Quinn has modified Atlanta's daily work schedule, which Ryan admits has taken some time getting used to.

"It's probably been seven years since I had to look at the schedule to figure out what time meetings starts and those types of things," said Ryan, who played under Smith since entering the NFL in 2008. "When you've been around the same coach for seven years, you understand where you're going to be at on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. You just get into your routine. With Dan coming in, I've kind of had to check our iPad and the (practice) script a little more.

"Dan has a different approach than Mike did. It's now about getting everybody in our organization to buy in. I think Dan has done an awesome job of that since moment one, getting guys to believe in what he wants and trying to get that out of everybody."

Rush to fix it: Ryan and Hawley are among those appreciative of Quinn changing the team's offensive style by hiring new coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Fielding the NFL's 24th-ranked rushing offense, the Falcons became too reliant on the pass in last year's 6-10 campaign.

Shanahan is installing a zone-blocking scheme that, based upon past success coaching in Washington and Houston, should help the Falcons enjoy greater success on the ground with a running back-by-committee approach featuring Devonta Freeman, Antone Smith and rookie Tevin Coleman.

"The zone-run scheme is really going to help us, particularly on the offensive line," said Ryan, who will be on the move more himself through play-action bootlegs and waggles. "It's tough when you drop back 50-plus times a game. Defenses are too good. For us to be effective and be the kind of offense we want to be, we've got to be more balanced moving forward. I think the scheme fits our personnel really well."

Said Hawley: "The way we're going to run the ball and attack the perimeter is going to help slow down the pass rush, which this O-line struggled with a bit the past couple years because there was so much (quarterback) drop-back. It's going to help the guys on the outside protect a little better."

Catching on: Ryan also said the new offense has added some "freshness" to practicing with his top two wide receivers. This is the fifth training camp Ryan has worked with Julio Jones and Roddy White.

"These are guys who I know their body language inside and out having played with them for so long, and understand timing and rhythm and where the ball needs to be," said Ryan, who posted his third straight season passing for 4,600-plus yards in 2014. "Julio is such an explosive guy, you have to throw to him differently than you throw to other guys.

"The biggest thing for us is all getting the terminology down and being on the same page. Those guys are pros. They're working hard every day and learning the scheme."

Super hangover: Although he left the Seahawks less than six weeks after Super Bowl XLIX, it didn't make Schofield feel any less angst over the way Seattle lost to New England. Schofield said he quickly left the country on vacation after the game and didn't watch the ending, which saw Seattle's questionable decision to pass at the goal line backfire with a Patriots interception to seal the win.

"I didn't want to look at any commercials or really think about it," Schofield said. "It wasn't until I got (to Atlanta) and coach had us look at one of the cutups from the SB that I actually watched the game.

"It was tough. It was definitely a learning experience. But there are guys that play a number of years and don't even get a chance to make it there. To be able to make it there twice in back-to-back years, I now understand what it takes in effort to get to that level."

Less is Moore: Hoping to play faster in Quinn's scheme, strong safety William Moore is 13 pounds lighter after reporting to last year's training camp at 230.

"I don't think I've been 217 (pounds) since high school," said Moore, who played in only seven games last season because of shoulder injuries. "I feel great. My same mindset of being physical down in the box hasn't changed."

Eagle eyes: The regular-season home opener against Philadelphia is less than five weeks away but linebacker Justin Durant said the team hasn't started game-planning for the Eagles' high-tempo offense just yet.

"We're trying to get everything that we have to get right (fixed) right now," said Durant, a veteran free-agent newcomer from Dallas. "We don't think we've reached where we need to be as far as a defense yet. We can't start preparing for somebody if we're not ready ourselves."


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It just feels different, the whole vibe around Flowery Branch has a pulse now. It's similar to what it was like in 2008 but with a sharper edge. The practices move, there's no down time, even the cool off break seems brief now. Compare this season to 2007 and it's insane. Under that clown from 2007, cellphones weren't allowed to be on, silent only. Players were told not to sign autographs and there was NO music. 2015 it's the complete opposite. Even if it takes several years to turn the team around the pulse is back with the team and the fans which is exciting.

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We really got a good coach, people. I felt this way since Dan Reeves.

Agree. I was an advocate of Rex Ryan to come in and take the HC job, believing that he represented the best chance the Falcons had of getting somebody in the building who could rescue this defense. I hadn't even considered Quinn as a serious candidate early on, even though I was definitely impressed with the Seattle D he was coordinator for.

I've been one of Quinn's biggest fans since he was named HC. As you said, he is a really good coach. I think he's probably working as hard as any player in training camp, considering his age and he's a coach, not a player trying to gain or hang on to a roster spot.

I love in Quinn all the things I hated about Mike Smith; his high-energy style, his all-out attack philosophy on both sides of the ball. Wanting his players to play with joy and aggression, not up-tight and careful, scared of screwing up. Playing to win and not playing to try not to lose.

Those 180-degree changes in attitude and philosophy I fully expect will result in at least a 3 or 4 game improvement in our won-loss record this year. And considering all the other things that have been done to make this team better, the Falcons getting to the play-offs almost seems like a no brainer. I believe by mid-season we'll be talking not about getting to the play-offs, but how deep we can go in the play-offs. Quinn has already shown me he's a good enough coach to achieve results that quickly.

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