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Eagles Preparing For 1St-Time Head Coach Dan Quinn


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Eagles preparing for 1st-time head coach Dan Quinn
September 9, 2015, 6:00 pm
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Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spent the last two seasons as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator. (USA Today Images)

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When the Eagles take the field for their regular season opener Monday night, Dan Quinn will be making his NFL head coaching debut for the Atlanta Falcons on the opposite sideline. And in case you need an example of the challenges involved with preparing for a first-time head coach, look no further than Chip Kelly.

Two short years ago, Kelly was making his NFL debut for the Eagles. At the time, he was a curiosity, coming to the league from the University of Oregon, zero experience of any kind at the next level. Nobody knew what to expect, let alone in Week 1 — including the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles jumped all over Washington that fateful Monday night, racking up a 33-7 lead less than a minute-and-a-half into the third quarter. Kelly might’ve been a little guilty of taking his foot off the gas pedal, only squeaking by with the win by a final of 33-27, but it was clear from the onset that the opponent wasn’t ready for what hit them.

Quinn isn’t likely to have quite that dramatic of an effect on the Falcons. The long-time defensive line coach has had stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and most recently the Seattle Seahawks, where he served as defensive coordinator the past two seasons, winning one Super Bowl and reaching another. The Eagles should have at least some idea of what to expect.

Still, while Kelly downplayed the element of surprise involved with his own NFL premier, he admitted Quinn inevitably will make calls the Eagles aren’t entirely prepared for.

“I don’t think Dan used everything in the preseason, both offensively and defensively,” Kelly said. “You kind of have to look at the coordinators and where they came from and kind of match up what you think is going to happen, but there will have to be some in-game adjustments, both offensively and defensively, in terms of what we’re preparing for.”

Quinn tabbed Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator, who’s held that title for the Houston Texans, Washington and last season with the Cleveland Browns. Quinn, of course, will be hands-on with the defense, but Kelly expects some influence from long-time NFL assistant Richard Smith as well.

“Their [defensive] coordinator came from [the Denver Broncos], so you have to look at where they all came from,” Kelly said. “Same thing offensively. Kyle is there, but it’s not exactly what he did at Washington because obviously [Falcons quarterback] Matt Ryan is a little bit different than [Robert Griffin].

“You have an understanding of what they’re going to do, but there will be things that they show in the first game that they didn’t show in the preseason.”

That being said, Quinn does have his work cut out for him. The Falcons fired defensive-minded head coach Mike Smith after seven seasons in large part because his unit was such a mess. Atlanta finished 26th in points allowed, last in pass defense and total yards in 2014.

It’s not exactly the Seahawks, which has fielded a historically great defense the past two seasons. Quinn deserves some credit for that, although the unit was already outstanding when he took over, begging the question how much of his success had to do with scheme, and how much was the talent he had to work with.

“Both,” Kelly said. “[The Seahawks have] an extremely talented defense, probably the best corner in the league, best safety in the league — best pair of safeties in the league, too. They have talent across the front.

“But Dan does a good job. It’s a really sound scheme. You know they’ll be prepared, so you have to be prepared when you go against them.”

Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell agrees. The free-agent addition really started making a name for himself the past two seasons under Quinn in Seattle, but also agreed the talent there had a lot to do with everybody’s success.

“It was a combination of all those things,” Maxwell said. “Usually that’s what happens with championship teams. Some luck, just being good and people coming around and jelling at the same time together.”

However, Maxwell also thinks Quinn has the right qualities to turn the Falcons around.

“He’s a tough guy, tough mindset," Maxwell said. "He’s a great person, a good coach. He brings leadership, all of those things to Atlanta.”

For that matter, so does safety Walter Thurmond, another former Seahawk who joined the Eagles during the offseason. Thurmond played under Quinn for one season in 2013, but it was enough to see what he can bring to the table in Atlanta.

“A hard-nosed mentality, very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. He loves his defensive line,” Thurmond said. “It’s going to be a situation where they’re going to play some tough football, they’re going to be very chippy. I can see them being something similar to Seattle, because he had his fingerprint, as far as the defense is concerned, on that. I can see us going against a very scrappy team.”

Similar to Seattle? That is very high praise for a head coach who is tasked with turning around a defense that’s been down in the dumps the last few years. Then again, that’s clearly what the Falcons are counting on.

Quinn’s defense will have his hands full right off the bat with Kelly’s offense. The Eagles offense has been top five in the NFL in both scoring and total yards each of the past two seasons, and looks as dangerous as ever coming off of a prolific preseason.

But if Quinn holds only one advantage heading into Monday’s opener, it’s an air of mystery. There’s enough tape and data on the Falcons coaching staff that Kelly and the Eagles shouldn’t be wholly unprepared. Regardless, there’s no telling what Quinn will do when he’s the man devising the game-plans on making the critical decisions on the sideline.

http://www.csnphilly.com/football-philadelphia-eagles/eagles-preparing-1st-time-atlanta-falcons-head-coach-dan-quinn

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