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Excellent Game Breakdown - The Falcons Front 7


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The Falcoholic

by Allen Stryk

http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2015/8/17/9161423/the-front-sevens-encouraging-performance-lives-up-to-the-fast-and

Whenever a new coaching staff is assembled, many questions arise about their strategies and usage of personnel. Dan Quinns reputation of being a player-friendly and defensive-minded coach has generated optimism around Atlanta. During the past two seasons, it became clear that their defense was ruining the prime years of Matt Ryans career. No quarterback in Atlanta history has been more efficient than Ryan. Despite his accolades and gaudy numbers, the Falcons have one playoff win in seven seasons under his realm.

That statistic is nothing more than a comical notion of Ryan being the culprit of those losses. The beloved hash-tag "QB Winz" should be erased from existence. What should never be erased is the belief that a strong front-seven could lead to success in January. Since 2012, the overall Falcons' defense hasnt generated more than 32 sacks in a single season. The inability to sack opposing quarterbacks was highlighted by a mere 22 sacks last season. While historical facts arent always the best source of information, they present an excellent case here.

Past Super Bowl champions have had above-average front sevens', which played a vital role in their success. New England had 40 sacks last season. In 2013, Seattle had 44 sacks to go along with harassing Peyton Manning into the most humiliating defeat of his legendary career. Green Bay created 47 sacks during their championship season. Its been well documented how the Giants won both their Super Bowls with a destructive pass rush that made Tom Brady look ordinary. All of these teams had stellar front sevens to force opposing quarterbacks into critical mistakes.

Atlanta hasnt forced many errors out of opposing quarterbacks over the past two seasons. Mike Nolans defenses clearly lacked talent, yet his past brilliance couldnt force quarterbacks out of the pocket without going through their second or third read. From watching champions succeed through having a stout pass rush and solid linebacker play, it has to make every franchise realize the recipe of success, besides having an above average quarterback.

In my preview column for last Friday's game, the play of the front seven was highlighted as the number one thing to watch for specifically against Tennessee. Several new faces were added to upgrade a ravaged unit. The amount of depth and upside in the front seven brought new-founded enthusiasm from a restless fan base. As the first quarter commenced, the first-string defense justified the optimism.

RaShede Hagemans first step was blistering at times. His dedication towards improving his overall fitness seems to be paying off. Paul Soliai made more standout plays in one quarter than all of last season. Tyson Jackson got into the action with an actual sack that wasnt penalized. While many remain skeptical of Jackson playing the Red Bryant role, the former first-round pick looked more agile and explosive.

Quinn has employed several new methods to reinvigorate a franchise lacking direction. The entire team was challenged to have the best off-season of their respective career. Whether it was becoming better technically or losing weight, the message has been heard. The likes of Hageman, Jackson, and William Moore have responded to Quinns challenge by losing weight. Dave Archer even mentioned that Julio Jones lost five pounds during Friday nights telecast. Toughness was constantly mentioned throughout last pre-season. That nonsensical preaching resulted in Ryan Tannehill leading Miami to a scoring drive without much resistance. It also led to allowing 13 consecutive points to a Houston offense featuring Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jonathan Grimes.

The lack of toughness was shown throughout last season. My point of mentioning those examples was based on how the defense has looked so far. Atlantas first string defense has already forced two turnovers compared to last year. Instead of lining up as a four-tech, Jonathan Babineaux was back to being utilized as a two-tech defensive lineman. In a matter of three plays, the reliable veteran beat Chance Warmack and stripped Marcus Mariota for a sack. Simple personnel decisions like that can pay off in drastic dividends.

Babineaux is far more effective as a defensive tackle, along with Malliciah Goodman who had a strong game. Goodman is another player that was challenged to lose a substantial amount of weight this off-season. In nickel packages, he was effective in making two defensive stops against the run, which included tossing right guard Justin McCary on his backside. With so many new faces, the third-year defensive lineman has become somewhat of an afterthought. Most of his snaps did come from playing within the second-string unit. It was still promising to see a much leaner Goodman, who showcased a much quicker first step compared to last season.

Last Friday night can be described as a brief showcase game for many key players. Quinn didnt show many different looks, which is the case for most teams on opening night. The nickel-sub package stood out with Babineaux and Adrian Clayborn on the interior. That package can be prone to allowing significant yards on a potential draw play, given the lack of size between both players. They are known for being able to penetrate rather than take on double teams. In terms of generating a pass rush, a line of Beasley, Babineaux, Clayborn, and possibly OBrien Schofield or Kroy Biermann is intriguing. Its easily the most versatile defensive line in Atlanta since 2011. That was the last year that Ray Edwards had actual value as a three-down lineman.

The linebacker core showed signs of excellence as well. In terms of free agency, linebacker was easily the most addressed position based on certain contracts. Justin Durant wasnt the most ideal replacement for Sean Weatherspoon at 29 years old. His leadership and ability as a three-down linebacker will still prove to be essential. Andrew Hirsh's piece on Durant is an excellent read to understand his true value. On the interception, Durant recognized Tennessees screen design brilliantly. Mariota was flustered by the offensive line breaking down immediately and threw off his back foot. It was the first time in two years that a Falcons linebacker showed excellent awareness through causing a turnover.

The jury is out on how Brooks Read will be utilized this season. As long as he plays an integral part of the Falcons becoming a top fifteen run defense, fans will appreciate his relentless motor. The cover three scheme should benefit him and Paul Worrilow. Simplicity can do wonders for a revamped defense. It contrasts drastically from a defense that was forced to run several blitz designs to generate any semblance of a pass-rush last season. Quinn continues to implement unique methods for the front seven such as the using boxing techniques to work on their hand placement and block shedding ability.

Almost every NFL team is envious of Seattles defense. They don't run anything distinctive, yet quarterbacks are left flustered and incapable of having much success. Supreme talent will outperform a wide variety of schemes from a defensive perspective on nearly every occasion. It doesnt hurt that Seattle has a shutdown corner and the best safety duo in the league.

Atlanta possesses a shutdown corner (or at least on the verge), while the safety duo has potential to be difference makers. Ricardo Allen wasnt tested against Tennessee through a limited amount of reps. His willingness to hit and not miss any tackles did make an impression. Of course, an above-average secondary is on the wish list of every defensive coordinator. Its still nowhere near as important as having a disruptive front seven.

Friday night showed glimpses of a fast and physical defense. Not every player stood out, as Grady Jarrett and Joplo Bartu struggled on the second string defense. Allen Bradford deserves recognition for making several tackles and being generally active. He struggled to get off blocks at times, which isnt surprising for such an inexperienced player. The former college running back will hopefully be capable of playing more than special teams this season.

The front sevens play will be highlighted on a weekly basis. When someone watches a front seven lacking difference makers for 32 consecutive games, immediate upgrades and better performances will be expected. As embattled general manager Thomas Dimitroff continuously repeated from 2008 to 2010, this will be a process. If Quinn can get the best out of one dimensional players such as Soliai and Jackson, that can play a huge factor in Atlanta winning ten games. The development of Beasley and Hageman will rightfully be monitored the most. While the team is still somewhat rebuilding, fans want to see improvement and a home playoff game in January. Those are realistic expectations, as long as the front seven can stop the run and force quarterbacks to make quicker decisions on a more consistent basis.

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Very enjoyable read. Thanks for posting.

I'm really interested in seeing more from Soliai and Jackson. I think this is their chance to show that they're more than one-dimensional, particularly Jackson. It's got to suck to be considered a first round bust and while he'll never justify the draft position, this defense could be a great fit for him and give him a chance to prove some chops.

Looking forward to getting Reed back - think he'll be a good piece for us.

Can't wait for the third preseason game to get a real feel for how we'll actually approach a team with a game plan and actually showing some different looks on both offense and defense.

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Very enjoyable read. Thanks for posting.

I'm really interested in seeing more from Soliai and Jackson. I think this is their chance to show that they're more than one-dimensional, particularly Jackson. It's got to suck to be considered a first round bust and while he'll never justify the draft position, this defense could be a great fit for him and give him a chance to prove some chops.

Looking forward to getting Reed back - think he'll be a good piece for us.

Can't wait for the third preseason game to get a real feel for how we'll actually approach a team with a game plan and actually showing some different looks on both offense and defense.

Soliai and Jackson benefited from being lined up in a 4-3 front and being allowed to shoot the gap instead of standing there protecting the gap(s) or hesitating first, with Beasley getting double teamed and Hageman pushing the OG back about 4 yards. That defensive front 4 absolutely overwhelmed the Titans OL.The last time I saw a pocket collapse like that, Matt Ryan was under center!

I also saw Jackson and Soliai using their hands totally different than last year.

When you consider we can put Babs next to Clayborn in some sub packages, and knowing Quinn likes toi mix things up, I'm more excited about the prospects of our DL than I have been in years. A dominant front 4 can be a game changer for this defense.

I agree with the author, that if this DL can disrupt, overwhelm, be quickwer than its opponents based on weekly matchups, we could go deep into playoffs if this comes together!

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Soliai and Jackson benefited from being lined up in a 4-3 front and being allowed to shoot the gap instead of standing there protecting the gap(s), with Beasley getting double teamed and Hageman pushing the OG back about 4 yards. That defensive front 4 absolutely overwhelmed the Titans OL.

I also saw Jackson and Soliai using their hands totally different than last year.

When you consider we can put Babs next to Clayborn in some sub packages, and knowing Quinn likes toi mix things up, I'm more excited about the prospects of our DL than I have been in years.

I agree with the author, that if this DL can disrupt, overwhelm, be quickwer than its opponents based on weekly matchups, we could go deep into playoffs if this comes together!

yeah I have to agree. I was excited with last year additions, only to see them (as others) not used to their strengths, literally.........this year appears that it will be even more than what I'd hoped for last year for sure

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I also saw Jackson and Soliai using their hands totally different than last year.

that's one of the things me, vel & Fatboi talk about all the time, defensive linemen being violent with their hands. glad to see it's one of the things Quinn preaches and was also why I hated when Hamilton was our DL coach

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When you consider we can put Babs next to Clayborn in some sub packages, and knowing Quinn likes toi mix things up, I'm more excited about the prospects of our DL than I have been in years. A dominant front 4 can be a game changer for this defense.

he could be the most excited out of any player on this roster with the defensive overhaul. I think he will be rejuvenated and I expect a pretty good year from him.

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I feel bad because it's a pretty good article but I couldn't help but notice "Brooks READ".

That aside it was one of the better articles I've seen lately. Nice find.

To be added alongside Keith Brookings, Brian Finnerman as well as others.

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Soliai and Jackson benefited from being lined up in a 4-3 front and being allowed to shoot the gap instead of standing there protecting the gap(s), with Beasley getting double teamed and Hageman pushing the OG back about 4 yards. That defensive front 4 absolutely overwhelmed the Titans OL.The last time I saw a pocket collapse like that, Matt Ryan was under center!

I also saw Jackson and Soliai using their hands totally different than last year.

When you consider we can put Babs next to Clayborn in some sub packages, and knowing Quinn likes toi mix things up, I'm more excited about the prospects of our DL than I have been in years. A dominant front 4 can be a game changer for this defense.

I agree with the author, that if this DL can disrupt, overwhelm, be quickwer than its opponents based on weekly matchups, we could go deep into playoffs if this comes together!

It was certainly fun to see the difference in speed between the 4-3 Under and Nascar. I almost wonder if they had a safety blitz dialed up at random during the Nascar like Lowery and Southward did last year how well that would work. Even with a TE blocking I don't think they'd be able to shut down the pass rush.

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I think the scheme change is going to make a huge difference. I was fairly optimistic last year that the additions of Soliai and Jackson would create a lot of pressure in the interior of the line and lead to higher sack totals for the edge rushers.

Obviously, that wasn't the case.

I think we'll see them used much more effectively this year.

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I dont think we blitz one time against the Titans. Its seemed like all of the pressure came from the D-line winning one on one match-ups.

From a preseason stand-point, I wouldn't blitz at all.

  1. You get to see what your front 4 is capable of by themselves.
  2. The first couple of teams you play in the regular season don't have any film to watch on your blitz packages.
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to be honest brooks reed was the only lb I was even remotely excited about bringing in at first, and even though I dont think justin durant is a superstar I think I might have not giving him enough credit. the thing I like about reed is he can cover lbs

Edited by jdawg4876
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to be honest brooks reed was the only lb I was even remotely excited about bringing in at first, and even though I dont think justin durant is a superstar I think I might have not giving him enough credit. the thing I like about reed is he can cover lbs

That will come in handy when they send lbs out on routes :p

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