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Three Falcons players who could benefit from Arthur Smith’s hiring - AJC


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by Jason Butt for the AJC

 

A new coaching staff undoubtedly will bring numerous philosophical changes for the Falcons.

And with those changes, certain players and position groups could benefit from fresh faces bringing new ideas to the table. At the same time, Falcons coach Arthur Smith, in his lone meeting with the local media thus far, stated his plan is to be adaptable with this roster, meaning the coaching staff will adjust to the personnel.

“There’s a lot of factors in there, and we have a foundation, but we are not going to be rigid,” Smith said. “We are going to play to the strength of our roster. And there’s a constant evolution. The whole thing is you’re constantly trying to improve your football team, and I’m constantly trying to improve myself as a coach.”

Of the possible players who could see a leap in production under Smith, here are three who fit the bill.

Right tackle Kaleb McGary: The salary cap usually creates parity across the NFL. In a team sport relying on many moving parts, it can be argued that coaching matters more in the NFL than the other three major U.S. professional sports leagues.

Over the past three seasons, the Falcons’ offensive line hasn’t performed the way it would have liked. It’s not like the Falcons’ former front office built this offensive line to fail. They opened the 2020 season with five former first-round selections in the starting lineup. Young on the right side and experienced on the left, this has the makings of being a talented group in need of some new ideas.

The offensive line’s need for improvement is why Smith’s hiring in particular is such a fit. With the Tennessee Titans, Smith, a former offensive lineman, was forced adjust to numerous lineup changes up front during the 2020 season because of injury. No matter the personnel, the run game never missed a beat.

All of the Falcons’ linemen set to return should benefit immensely with Smith running the show. While offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford hasn’t coached in the NFL before, he did play the position in the league, which should garner respect from his players. He also coached two first-rounders at the college level — Garrett Bradbury (Minnesota Vikings) at N.C. State and Mekhi Becton (New York Jets) at Louisville.

This kind of coaching should help McGary immensely as he enters his third season. McGary is at his best in the run game, which the Falcons figure to do more of under Smith’s guidance. In addition, you can bet the new coaching staff will put plenty of eyes on how to improve this entire group as pass protectors. In 2020, the Falcons allowed 41 sacks, a number that must come down if the offense is to be successful. McGary has the physical tools to be a consistent force on the right side of the line. A run-friendly scheme should work well for this group, with McGary being a player who could potentially flourish.

Linebacker Foye Oluokun: One of Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ best coaching jobs occurred in 2012, when he held the same position with the Baltimore Ravens. That season, the Ravens dealt with a slew of injuries, with inside linebacker Ray Lewis and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs missing a combined 18 games between the two. Late during that season, the Ravens lost inside linebacker Jameel McClain for the season and their subsequent Super Bowl run because of a spinal-cord injury.

Throughout the season and amid the injuries, Pees continued to adjust accordingly, getting more production than expected out of linebackers such as Dannell Ellerbe, Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan and Brendon Ayenbadejo. Pees’ scheme has worked wonders for linebackers over the years, with that 2012 season being a great example.

Oluokun showed the makings of a budding star during his third NFL season. He showed great athletic ability and versatility at the position, often guarding the opposing team’s top tight end in coverage. He was asked to blitz and did a good job defending the run.

With Pees running the defense, Oluokun could continue growing into a playmaking force.

Tight end Hayden Hurst: With the Titans, Smith’s offense got the ball to tight end Jonnu Smith in the red zone quite a bit. Smith finished the 2020 season with eight touchdowns while catching 41 passes for 448 yards. The Titans ran the ball the second-most of any team in the NFL, an approach that didn’t allow for as wide of a distribution of passing targets as most other teams.

When Tennessee did throw the ball, the tight ends were involved. Smith finished the season with the third most yards on the roster. Tennessee’s other tight end, Anthony Firkser, ranked fourth with 39 catches for 387 yards, with one touchdown pass.

It’s evident that the Falcons will look to return to a well-executed play-action attack, which the team hasn’t shown since the 2016 season. Given the personnel at the present time, it’s tough to assume the Falcons will run the ball as much as the Titans did this past season. If the run game improves, however, play-action should as well. From there, a player such as Hurst should only see his targets and opportunities grow.

Hurst finished the 2020 season with 56 catches, 571 yards and six touchdowns. As the season progressed, it seemed his rapport with quarterback Matt Ryan improved by the week. With this direction on offense, Hurst’s skill set has a chance to be utilized to its full potential.

 

 

Edited by Goober Pyle
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57 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

by Jason Butt for the AJC

 

A new coaching staff undoubtedly will bring numerous philosophical changes for the Falcons.

And with those changes, certain players and position groups could benefit from fresh faces bringing new ideas to the table. At the same time, Falcons coach Arthur Smith, in his lone meeting with the local media thus far, stated his plan is to be adaptable with this roster, meaning the coaching staff will adjust to the personnel.

“There’s a lot of factors in there, and we have a foundation, but we are not going to be rigid,” Smith said. “We are going to play to the strength of our roster. And there’s a constant evolution. The whole thing is you’re constantly trying to improve your football team, and I’m constantly trying to improve myself as a coach.”

Of the possible players who could see a leap in production under Smith, here are three who fit the bill.

Right tackle Kaleb McGary: The salary cap usually creates parity across the NFL. In a team sport relying on many moving parts, it can be argued that coaching matters more in the NFL than the other three major U.S. professional sports leagues.

Over the past three seasons, the Falcons’ offensive line hasn’t performed the way it would have liked. It’s not like the Falcons’ former front office built this offensive line to fail. They opened the 2020 season with five former first-round selections in the starting lineup. Young on the right side and experienced on the left, this has the makings of being a talented group in need of some new ideas.

The offensive line’s need for improvement is why Smith’s hiring in particular is such a fit. With the Tennessee Titans, Smith, a former offensive lineman, was forced adjust to numerous lineup changes up front during the 2020 season because of injury. No matter the personnel, the run game never missed a beat.

All of the Falcons’ linemen set to return should benefit immensely with Smith running the show. While offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford hasn’t coached in the NFL before, he did play the position in the league, which should garner respect from his players. He also coached two first-rounders at the college level — Garrett Bradbury (Minnesota Vikings) at N.C. State and Mekhi Becton (New York Jets) at Louisville.

This kind of coaching should help McGary immensely as he enters his third season. McGary is at his best in the run game, which the Falcons figure to do more of under Smith’s guidance. In addition, you can bet the new coaching staff will put plenty of eyes on how to improve this entire group as pass protectors. In 2020, the Falcons allowed 41 sacks, a number that must come down if the offense is to be successful. McGary has the physical tools to be a consistent force on the right side of the line. A run-friendly scheme should work well for this group, with McGary being a player who could potentially flourish.

Linebacker Foye Oluokun: One of Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ best coaching jobs occurred in 2012, when he held the same position with the Baltimore Ravens. That season, the Ravens dealt with a slew of injuries, with inside linebacker Ray Lewis and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs missing a combined 18 games between the two. Late during that season, the Ravens lost inside linebacker Jameel McClain for the season and their subsequent Super Bowl run because of a spinal-cord injury.

Throughout the season and amid the injuries, Pees continued to adjust accordingly, getting more production than expected out of linebackers such as Dannell Ellerbe, Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan and Brendon Ayenbadejo. Pees’ scheme has worked wonders for linebackers over the years, with that 2012 season being a great example.

Oluokun showed the makings of a budding star during his third NFL season. He showed great athletic ability and versatility at the position, often guarding the opposing team’s top tight end in coverage. He was asked to blitz and did a good job defending the run.

With Pees running the defense, Oluokun could continue growing into a playmaking force.

Tight end Hayden Hurst: With the Titans, Smith’s offense got the ball to tight end Jonnu Smith in the red zone quite a bit. Smith finished the 2020 season with eight touchdowns while catching 41 passes for 448 yards. The Titans ran the ball the second-most of any team in the NFL, an approach that didn’t allow for as wide of a distribution of passing targets as most other teams.

When Tennessee did throw the ball, the tight ends were involved. Smith finished the season with the third most yards on the roster. Tennessee’s other tight end, Anthony Firkser, ranked fourth with 39 catches for 387 yards, with one touchdown pass.

It’s evident that the Falcons will look to return to a well-executed play-action attack, which the team hasn’t shown since the 2016 season. Given the personnel at the present time, it’s tough to assume the Falcons will run the ball as much as the Titans did this past season. If the run game improves, however, play-action should as well. From there, a player such as Hurst should only see his targets and opportunities grow.

Hurst finished the 2020 season with 56 catches, 571 yards and six touchdowns. As the season progressed, it seemed his rapport with quarterback Matt Ryan improved by the week. With this direction on offense, Hurst’s skill set has a chance to be utilized to its full potential.

 

 

The talk of Hurst makes me think Pitts is still a possibility at 4 if we can't trade back, considering Hurst is on the last year of his contract. Of all the potential players that will be available at 4, I actually think Sewell and Pitts are highly probable (Pitts probably won't fall past Philly at 6).

When looking at the biggest bang for your $$$, Sewell and Pitts make the most sense to me.

I expect Lawrence, Wilson and one of Sewell, Chase or Smith to be off the board in the first 3 picks. That leaves possibly #2 WR (Or #2 OL), #3 QB (Fields) or #1 TE. If #1 OL is gone that leaves #1 WR and #1 TE. In our situation, I go #1 TE over #1 WR or #3 QB. His impact is one that provides longevity for MR.

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36 minutes ago, celtiksage said:

The talk of Hurst makes me think Pitts is still a possibility at 4 if we can't trade back, considering Hurst is on the last year of his contract. Of all the potential players that will be available at 4, I actually think Sewell and Pitts are highly probable (Pitts probably won't fall past Philly at 6).

When looking at the biggest bang for your $$$, Sewell and Pitts make the most sense to me.

I expect Lawrence, Wilson and one of Sewell, Chase or Smith to be off the board in the first 3 picks. That leaves possibly #2 WR (Or #2 OL), #3 QB (Fields) or #1 TE. If #1 OL is gone that leaves #1 WR and #1 TE. In our situation, I go #1 TE over #1 WR or #3 QB. His impact is one that provides longevity for MR.

Great take.  

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Hurst has got to be kicking his chops. Smith knows Hurst was chased by 2 Buffalo Bill CBs 80 yards and they couldn’t catch him. That is elite top end speed for a TE.

That said, I can see a 3rd and 1 situation at our 20, man coverage with defenders in the box, and Smith calling a short crossing route to Hurst with a safety or LB, and Hurst taking it 80 yards for a TD. No one can catch him once he’s running.

 

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13 minutes ago, runshoot said:

Amazing an AJC writer put out an article that was actually professional. Then we have DOLt and his "5 things we learned" snippets, which are pathetic and his drunk bill cosby questions in interviews are equally as bad.

Jason Butt is a good writer. He was the Falcons beat writer for The Athletic prior to being "downsized" and replaced with Tori McElhaney. 

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