Goober Pyle

Plan of ‘a Takk’: Coaches looking for more focus from former first-rounder — and the team as a whole

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https://theathletic.com/711452/2018/12/13/the-falcons-have-lacked-focus-with-manuel-wanting-more-of-it-from-former-first-rounder/

 

By Jason Butt

Lennox Lewis was at the top of his boxing career in 2001. Coming off a series of heavyweight title defenses, Lewis inked a championship match against little-known fighter Hasim Rahman, to take place in Brakpan, Gauteng, South Africa. Lewis received 20-1 odds and was expected to win decisively.

But as the fight got underway, it became clear the underdog was much more focused than Lewis in the title bout.

Lewis was prepared to fight that night, sure. But Rahman was the one paying attention to each detail needed to win. And in the fifth round, Rahman backed Lewis into the ropes. Lewis then dipped his gloves away, creating a window for any talented boxer to land a crushing blow.

And that’s exactly what Rahman did. He seized the opening and threw a punishing right hook across Lewis’ face. Lewis fell to the mat and succumbed to a knockout.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn played that clip to his team this week, to reiterate the need for improved focus on Sundays. Quinn honed in on the knockout punch. While the Falcons keep saying their weekly preparation is going well, the results aren’t translating. Atlanta has lost five consecutive games, being in contention in only one of those games — a 22-19 loss to the Cowboys.

Throughout this slump, the Falcons have done a little bit of everything to put themselves in position to lose, whether it’s been dropped interceptions, the inability to recover fumbles, missed deep shots down the field or the struggle to consistently run the ball.

“Just like that night, where Lennox may have dropped his hands and lost focus, and Rahman filled that hole, for us, I wanted to make sure those are the ones out at practice you get ready for,” Quinn said. “So when these moments come, we’re ready to nail it. You have to have both. You have to have the fighter and warrior mindset.

“Our group does but you have to have the focus and mindset when those plays come that you’re ready to go finish on those.”

Defensive end Takk McKinley said the Lewis-Rahman analogy made “perfect sense” when it came to the Falcons’ lack of focus during certain games. Against the Packers, the Falcons had opportunities on both sides of the ball to prevent a run of 34 unanswered points.

But the defense couldn’t get off the field and the offense seemed to commit inopportune penalties at awful times. From McKinley’s perspective, the attention to detail Lewis overlooked is a great example as to why this team is 4-9 instead of 9-4.

“You had one guy who was out there, who trained and prepared for the fight, and another guy who thought he could come in and win the fight,” McKinley said. “It shows you have to put in the work in to be successful. At the time, Lennox didn’t respect his opponent and he got knocked out. It’s that simple.”

While McKinley is a fan of the comparison, he is someone his coaches want to see more out of during this final three-game stretch. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel noted that McKinley’s effort has gone unquestioned. But there are elements Manuel said the coaching staff must continue to harp on with the former first-round draft pick.

Against the Saints, McKinley body slammed an opponent on a special teams play, which cost his team 15 yards. After beginning the year with 5.5 sacks in seven games, he has zero sacks and four tackles in the past six.

“You have to continuously keep him focused,” Manuel said. “That’s all of us on the staff. That’s all of us as players. His aggression, we need it in between the whistles. We don’t need it post-snap. We don’t need it on the sideline. Just continuously, in unison, helping out with him.”

Manuel said the key is continuing to remind McKinley to focus on the next play. When a play is over, it’s on to the next. Young players often fall into the trap of worrying about a previous play, or letting a sequence of events get the best of them.

In a league like the NFL, it is imperative to have a short-term memory in the heat of battle. That’s something Manuel said he hopes they can instill in McKinley as he continues to develop.

“To get him to focus on his details and consistently understand in-drive that we need him to rush the quarterback with relentless intent, you just have to continue that part of it,” Manuel said.

When asked about his teams issues when it comes to focus, or a lack thereof, McKinley said, “I wish not to discuss that.” But he did offer his feelings on Atlanta’s five-game losing streak, which has been as hard on him as anyone in the locker room.

“It sucks. Losing is not fun,” he said. “Losing when you’re not producing like you want to is not fun. All you can do is come back to work, keep grinding and hopefully on Sundays perform like you want to perform.”

After discussing McKinley at length, Manuel was asked a related question regarding the rest of the team: Did he still feel that, given the circumstance at hand, his unit was still buying in to the season?

“Guys are playing hard. You guys see it, down in and down out, consistent effort,” Manuel said. “You’re not seeing guys quitting on plays, things like that. We’re just not making the plays to win the game. A year ago, statistically we played great, one of the better defenses we had in 20 years. Now, we’re not making those plays to win the game.”

Quinn will certainly hope his players take to the Lewis-Rahman example, so that some sort of progress can be displayed before the end of a dreary season. It remains to be seen if this is something that each player will take to heart when it matters most on the final three Sundays of the 2018 campaign.

“It’s a really good message, that the fight is one thing, but the focus and the intent and being into it and being prepared is just as important,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I thought it was a really good message to the guys and one that we responded to well.”

 

 

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Coach it. Forget the film montage.  Actually teach our speed rusher and bull rusher other dang moves. This is just stupid. Make them only rush one way all practice or even game until they learn that move. Be a Belechek not a Glanville.

Flying Falcon and Emmitt like this

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He's a kid who has worked hard to get where he is but always just got by on his talent. In the NFL the talent isn't enough. Players who don't put in the extra work in the NFL tend to not make it. I hope he responds. He seems like a good kid who deserves the opportunity. 

Lack of focus has been an issue for this team for the past two years. In 2016 they were hyper focused and it showed.

PokerSteve and Halcon-1 like this

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32 minutes ago, vel said:

"A year ago, statistically we played great, one of the better defenses we had in 20 years."

That's part of the problem. It wasn't. 

Manuel is trying to hang his hat on that. He's definitely out (or at least demoted) at the end of the season unless something remarkable happens.

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Same old ish what more do you need when you have seen all the motivational videos and speeches after the super bowl loss.   

Halcon-1 likes this

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It was pretty obvious during the off-season that Takk's head was not in the right place. Hopefully he looks back on this year and realizes how bad he has played and that if he wants to be an impact player on this league he can't give himself the luxury of taking an entire month or two off during the offseason. The greats work their ***** off 12 months a year in this league. 

PokerSteve and Halcon-1 like this

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2 hours ago, vel said:

"A year ago, statistically we played great, one of the better defenses we had in 20 years."

That's part of the problem. It wasn't. 

Wait, Vel, I get that we were bad in drives per game -- but what defenses did we have that were better in that metric? The 2012 defense maybe?

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3 hours ago, Jesus said:

He's a kid who has worked hard to get where he is but always just got by on his talent. In the NFL the talent isn't enough. Players who don't put in the extra work in the NFL tend to not make it. I hope he responds. He seems like a good kid who deserves the opportunity. 

Lack of focus has been an issue for this team for the past two years. In 2016 they were hyper focused and it showed.

I was taught you have to keep moving forward.  If you are not getting better, you are losing ground to your competition because they are all working to get better and move forward.  Being stagnant is a very bad place to be.  It comes down to who wants it the most.

Edited by Oldmanfan
add on

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2 hours ago, vel said:

"A year ago, statistically we played great, one of the better defenses we had in 20 years."

That's part of the problem. It wasn't. 

Our defense at the end of the year & playoffs was top-8 in the league.  We gave up 28 points total, on the road, in the playoffs last year to dynamic offensive teams.

Last 6 weeks of regular season we held the Bucs to 20 & 23 points, Saints 23 & 13, Vikings to 14 and Panthers to 10 points.  That’s great defense

Edited by Falconsin2012

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2 hours ago, FalconFanSince1970 said:

We have three games left. Takk and Beasley need to get 2-4 sacks each to close out the season. Their best chance will be Sunday against Arizona who has the tenth highest sack%. Beasley's been gettin there the last four weeks. Takk's been a ghost for seven weeks.

Some of Beasley sacks has come as a result of Takk getting there. I can name at least two that I remember directly in the GB game and Dallas game.

Dirtybird56 likes this

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6 hours ago, falconizer123 said:

Blah Blah Blah, seems like this is the message coaching staff should have been preaching since the start of training camp. Not 14 weeks into the season .SMH!!!

Context colors everything man. 

Telling a team that's feeling good about itself that it has to stay sharp and respect their opponents isnt likely to carry the same weight as telling those dudes the same thing after they've already felt the sting of overestimating themselves. 

Sometimes hard lessons have to be learned. 

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19 minutes ago, Cole World said:

Some of Beasley sacks has come as a result of Takk getting there. I can name at least two that I remember directly in the GB game and Dallas game.

Although not "ideal" this is really how its supposed to work. 

Your pass rushers have to work in concert. They have to push QBs off their spots and closer to one of the other guys rushing the passer. Or they have to force the QB to move out  of the pocket which allows players like Beasley to use his unique skills to get after them. 

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2 hours ago, Falconsin2012 said:

Our defense at the end of the year & playoffs was top-8 in the league.  We gave up 28 points total, on the road, in the playoffs last year to dynamic offensive teams.

Last 6 weeks of regular season we held the Bucs to 20 & 23 points, Saints 23 & 13, Vikings to 14 and Panthers to 10 points.  That’s great defense

Some of those defensive performances were very good. Some of them were not. The second Bucs game in particular. We gave up ~6.8 yards per play in the game. Thats not good enough. 

It definitely played better though. Better than it had in the first half of the year and better than it has all year this year. 

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If there is a singular disappointment personnel wise related to the Falcons fall from relevancy, it McKinley's disappearance during this stretch.  Early in the year, it looked like this kid was about to elevate his game to being one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL.  That upward trajectory has been put in reverse.

And that penalty referred to in the article felt petulant.

 

 

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People also learn to be more patient with individual players....especially pass rushers. 

There are an awful lot of really really good DL who developed slowly over the course of their first contract and into their second. I mean, even a guy like Cam Jordan has been in the league since 2011 and really just last year started to play at an elite level. 

Thats not to say you always just stay the course no matter what. More like people need to stop expecting any player to just come in and start stacking 12+ sack seasons. That's the goal but it shouldnt be the expectation. 

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4 hours ago, Falconsin2012 said:

Our defense at the end of the year & playoffs was top-8 in the league.  We gave up 28 points total, on the road, in the playoffs last year to dynamic offensive teams.

Last 6 weeks of regular season we held the Bucs to 20 & 23 points, Saints 23 & 13, Vikings to 14 and Panthers to 10 points.  That’s great defense

In a season that was 18 games long, imagine having to distill it down to 6 games to try and prove they were good. 

That's my point and was my point all last season. They were very capable of being that group they were to end the season. They weren't. That's why I gave Manuel heat when instead everybody pointed to us being "top 10". They had top ten talent and were capable of playing like a top ten defense, but they spent 2/3 of a season playing below average football. 

But yall would rather focus on the 1/3 of the season they looked good...

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52 minutes ago, vel said:

In a season that was 18 games long, imagine having to distill it down to 6 games to try and prove they were good. 

That's my point and was my point all last season. They were very capable of being that group they were to end the season. They weren't. That's why I gave Manuel heat when instead everybody pointed to us being "top 10". They had top ten talent and were capable of playing like a top ten defense, but they spent 2/3 of a season playing below average football. 

But yall would rather focus on the 1/3 of the season they looked good...

If the games were cherry picked I would agree with you completely.  But I used 8 straight games as context.  8 straight games is a trend.  That defense also contained Philly Week 1 this year.  It’s the defense I expect to see next year.  You can’t overcome the middle of your defense on all 3 levels going to IR

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14 minutes ago, Falconsin2012 said:

If the games were cherry picked I would agree with you completely.  But I used 8 straight games as context.  8 straight games is a trend.  That defense also contained Philly Week 1 this year.  It’s the defense I expect to see next year.  You can’t overcome the middle of your defense on all 3 levels going to IR

Tampa averaged 20.9 points per game last year. How much did the Falcons defense allow? 20 and 21. Yep, those were good performances. A good performance is holding the Saints to 17 and the Vikings to 14 and the Panthers to 10. They had a handful of good performances, but majority of the season, they were subpar. 

You can call it a trend, doesn't mean it's sustainable. Just like the 3 game win streak this group went on. 

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