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Dan Quinn Mic’ing Up Defensive Players in Practice to Help Fix Communication Issues

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Dan Quinn Mic’ing Up Defensive Players in Practice to Help Fix Communication Issues

Mic’ing up players is often done for editorial purposes, but what about for educational purposes? The Falcons’ head coach is trying it out with his defense.

By ROBERT KLEMKO August 15, 2019

Dan Quinn got the inspiration from an NFL Films clip: Buccaneers safety John Lynch, who was mic’d up during Super Bowl XXXVII against the Raiders, tips off fellow safety Dexter Jackson, then paces back towards his pre-snap position and yells across the field, “Dexter! Hey! Sluggo seam!” In the next shot, Jackson flies across the field and intercepts a Rich Gannon pass down the seam on the way to a Super Bowl MVP nod and a Tampa Bay victory.

In 2016, when Lynch was a television broadcaster with FOX and Quinn a first-year head coach with the Falcons, Quinn asked Lynch to speak with select members of his defense about the importance of pre-snap communication and relaying any pertinent observations about the offense at all times. That message sunk in for then-rookie safety Keanu Neal and second-year safety Falcons Ricardo Allen as they became Atlanta’s most vocal defensive players.

But when Neal tore his ACL in the 2018 season opener and Allen tore his Achilles’ tendon two games later, the Falcons defense lost its voice—and what followed was a precipitous drop from ninth in yards allowed in 2017 to 28th by the end of last season. Quinn had to find a way to make his defense talk. He thought of Lynch and that NFL Films clip. What if we mic up our own guys, not for publication on the team website, but for study purposes?

“We’ve got all this cool technology and we're trying to find ways to use it,” Quinn says. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Lets take a shot.”

He got the digital department on board to help set up the microphones (and to make sure it was clear that this was not for the website) and personally asked guys like linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Damontae Kazee to wear microphones during practice. And it really was an ask, not a job requirement, because how many people would be thrilled to wear a microphone for an entire workday? Said Quinn: “Guys say, ‘I’ll do it for the team, but I don’t want it for the website.’ They don’t want it out in the public but they’ll do it for their guys.”

Last season Quinn began showing five minutes cut-ups during defensive meetings consisting entirely of pre-snap communication and the aftermath. Why did you say this? What impact did it have on the play? How would you respond to the other end of this communication? “Or, why the silence?” Quinn says. “Nothing to say here?”

“I just feel like the best teams I’ve been a part of, it wasn’t just one person directing traffic,” Quinn says. “Even in man coverage, you have your assignment, but there are still calls you have to make. It’s not natural to talk on the field, but you have to share information.”

Quinn mic’d a player up in a game for the first time last weekend when rookie fourth-round defensive end John Cominsky submitted to the scrutiny during his NFL debut in Miami. His session will air to a private audience or about 40 of his teammates this week.

“This is the first time I've ever heard of this,” Ricardo Allen told The MMQB this week. “He’s always pushed [communication] but I’ve never seen anybody actually record it [during practice] and break it down before Coach.”

Allen says he could rely on four or five teammates talking during pre-snap including himself before he tore his Achilles. In practice this preseason, that number has jumped to nine, including the often silent cornerbacks and defensive linemen.

“The defensive linemen often feel like ‘If I can beat the guy in front of me, I’m good,’ and the corner feels like, ‘I’m on an island,’” Allen says. “But now people are thinking about how they can help their brother.

“Just because we see a certain thing doesn’t mean you’re always going to be right. Maybe we call out their best play from a certain formation, and they call something different. Well, you go back to your technique and your job. The majority of the time you wont be right, but if you’re right six times out of 80, and you can make a pick or force a fumble, that stuff adds up. You only need to be right a couple times. You only need to be plus-1 or plus-2 in turnovers to give yourself a 75-80% chance of winning the game.”

Quinn sees the defense-wide jump in communication as a silver lining in the Allen and Neal injuries (to be fair, Quinn sees the silver lining in most things). He’ll continue to record players throughout the season, focusing his attention on younger guys who have room to improve. After all, some of the veterans are a harder sell.

“I don’t like being mic’d up,” Allen says. “They’ve asked me a couple times. I don’t know. I’m weird about it. I’m just working. I can’t think about everything I’m saying and whether it’s appropriate. It’s too much.”

https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/08/15/falcons-defense-practice-microphones-dan-quinn

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Hope they are doing this as much with backups as they are starters. When Rico/Neal/Debo went down, it was Helter-skelter out there with the new guys due to lack of communication. That should get cleaned up much faster if there’s good coaching beforehand in practice.

No.11, JDaveG, vel and 2 others like this

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These are the things I like about DQ. He won't leave any stone unturned. Like he said, it may work. It may not. But let's try it and find out. I was watching turning point last night about the Seahawks SB win over the Broncos. They were great because of their communication. Rico may know exactly what's coming, but if it's not relayed to the entire group, it doesn't matter. Sherman, as a corner, was barking all across the field about what was coming and alerting everyone he could. Those are things that makes a defense. 

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1 hour ago, Vandy said:

Hope they are doing this as much with backups as they are starters. When Rico/Neal/Debo went down, it was Helter-skelter out there with the new guys due to lack of communication. That should get cleaned up much faster if there’s good coaching beforehand in practice.

I hope so as well. I wonder how he digs into guys who aren't talking. I wonder if that's why Senat is dropping down the DC. 

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I like it. Like the idea. Like the use of technology and the creativity.

My only concern that they didn't talk about is too many chiefs and not enough indians...native americans (not trying to be disrespectful here)

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2 minutes ago, ATLFalcons11 said:

I like it. Like the idea. Like the use of technology and the creativity.

My only concern that they didn't talk about is too many chiefs and not enough indians...native americans (not trying to be disrespectful here)

Trust, on the field, you want more chiefs. Making sure everybody is talking. Like Rico said, sometimes you'll be wrong, but you have no clue what's going on if nobody is saying anything. There is always a read or a check that needs to be made. 

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2 hours ago, Vandy said:

Hope they are doing this as much with backups as they are starters. When Rico/Neal/Debo went down, it was Helter-skelter out there with the new guys due to lack of communication. That should get cleaned up much faster if there’s good coaching beforehand in practice.

 

1 hour ago, vel said:

These are the things I like about DQ. He won't leave any stone unturned. Like he said, it may work. It may not. But let's try it and find out. I was watching turning point last night about the Seahawks SB win over the Broncos. They were great because of their communication. Rico may know exactly what's coming, but if it's not relayed to the entire group, it doesn't matter. Sherman, as a corner, was barking all across the field about what was coming and alerting everyone he could. Those are things that makes a defense. 

The whole communication thing is funny because in rugby when I used to play the onething I loved hearing if I was a defending was the guy inside me continually talking and me doing it to the next guy outside of me.

In all essence we used what was called an outside drift defense which meant when you were marked up say in a 3 on 3 or outnumbered 3-4 3-5 we’d always defend one man out for this to be able to happen you had to have the guy defending inside of you continually saying I got your inside which then would allow me to push one man out and and the same for the guy outside of me to cover the numbers.

The worst thing you would come across is if the guy didn’t say anything stayed on his guy and then we’d have to jam on the guy directly in front of us and hold and not drift which opened us up to long passes and getting beat outside.

It would also give the attackers the advantage because if the inside guy wasn’t pushing up and out we’d have to hold then the offense would then dictate to us and we’d be giving them time and space.

Communication is so key not many talk about this skill as it is a skill and it’s fundamentally important in just about every sport.

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29 minutes ago, ATLFalcons11 said:

I like it. Like the idea. Like the use of technology and the creativity.

My only concern that they didn't talk about is too many chiefs and not enough indians...native americans (not trying to be disrespectful here)

Can be an issue I won’t lie here BUT it’s not how much it’s what’s being said.

If you can cut the verbiage down to say a word that describes what’s in front of you and the defense recognise that word because they’ve watched it on tape it’s all good.

It doesn’t matter whose saying it.What you want to do is get in that favourable situation as quickly as possible once the message has been spread.

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37 minutes ago, vel said:

Trust, on the field, you want more chiefs. Making sure everybody is talking. Like Rico said, sometimes you'll be wrong, but you have no clue what's going on if nobody is saying anything. There is always a read or a check that needs to be made. 

Yea I don't mind the communication. I mean like multiple people talking at the same time, difference of opinions, too many words, etc.

I don't have much experience on the field in that regard so maybe I'm overthinking it but I can just imagine different cues being called out and some of them being contradictive.

I've seen a few situations where the LB will tell the DL to slide in alignment and the DL disagrees or waves the LB off, etc. Those things and @kiwifalcon helped out a bit in response to my post.

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20 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

 

The whole communication thing is funny because in rugby when I used to play the onething I loved hearing if I was a defending was the guy inside me continually talking and me doing it to the next guy outside of me.

In all essence we used what was called an outside drift defense which meant when you were marked up say in a 3 on 3 or outnumbered 3-4 3-5 we’d always defend one man out for this to be able to happen you had to have the guy defending inside of you continually saying I got your inside which then would allow me to push one man out and and the same for the guy outside of me to cover the numbers.

The worst thing you would come across is if the guy didn’t say anything stayed on his guy and then we’d have to jam on the guy directly in front of us and hold and not drift which opened us up to long passes and getting beat outside.

It would also give the attackers the advantage because if the inside guy wasn’t pushing up and out we’d have to hold then the offense would then dictate to us and we’d be giving them time and space.

Communication is so key not many talk about this skill as it is a skill and it’s fundamentally important in just about every sport.

Yep. And it's got to be confidently communicated. If that guy yelled softly he's got your inside, you won't believe him and that's just as bad as not saying something. Same in soccer. Constantly talking and directing. It's so important. 

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6 minutes ago, ATLFalcons11 said:

Yea I don't mind the communication. I mean like multiple people talking at the same time, difference of opinions, too many words, etc.

I don't have much experience on the field in that regard so maybe I'm overthinking it but I can just imagine different cues being called out and some of them being contradictive.

I've seen a few situations where the LB will tell the DL to slide in alignment and the DL disagrees or waves the LB off, etc. Those things and @kiwifalcon helped out a bit in response to my post.

But you know the calls that trigger your responsibilities. When we played, we had a "Read!" call that would change our cover two looks to a cover four depending on what the slot WR did on that side of the field. That wouldn't trigger anything for the DL or the opposite side safety/corner. But I had to yell that thing out so the corner on my side could hear the alert while the MLB is yelling shlt to the DL and other LBs, etc. It sometimes sounds like chaos, but it's not. It's like offensive playcalls, you aren't listening to the whole call, just your responsibility. Even then, the corner is probably yelling an alert back to me based on something he sees or what he might do. 

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