The Atlanta Falcons wasted no time in finding a new Offensive and Defensive Coordinator for next season when they hired Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan to fill the positions. Only about a week after the season ended, the Falcons front office made the two moves they believed was best for the team in the future.
I personally am excited about the hiring of Mike Nolan as the defensive coordinator because of his successful resume as a defensive coordinator in the NFL as well as his pedigree with his father being an NFL legend. With his experience and leadership, I believe the Falcons will have a great chance at surpassing the lackluster achievements of the defense while under the coaching of Van Gorder. To be honest, it is not going to take much work to improve on the numbers put up by Van Gorders defenses as they were not that great to begin with. Under Van Gorder the Falcons defense never ranked better than 20th in passing defense. Some people might point out that our rush defense was one of the best in the league, which it was. However, in a league that is drastically changing to a pass first league, a good rush defense is worth a dime a dozen. Especially in a division like the NFC South that includes Quaterbacks like Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Josh Freeman(even though Freeman had a terrible season this year). Any Falcons fan knows that all of these guys are very good at the least. And if we are going to challenge for the division title, a strong pass defense is going to be the key aspect on the defensive side of the ball. Also, you gotta love a guy who wears a suit on the sidelines. That is just classy.
As for the offensive side of the ball, I was not as excited about the hiring of Koetter as I was for Nolan. Koetter’s history in the NFL was a little suspect to me. The last four years, Koetter has been the Offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In those four years the Jags have not had a great offense to say the least. But looking back, not all of the offensive woes are his fault. The Jags only offensive threat is Maurice Jones-Drew. They do not have much in the way of Wide Receivers or Quaterback. So not all the blame belongs to Koetter. Also, I have read some of what he is looking to do as Offensive Coordinator for the Falcons and so far I have liked what I have read.
One thing he wants to implement more of is the Screen Passing game. This is something that has been severely lacking for the Falcons in the past under Mularkey. One of the reasons this has been absent from our game plan is because Michael Turner, who I think is a great running back, is not great catching the ball out of the back field. And if you look at most of the elite teams in the league they all have running backs that are good or great receivers out of the back field. If we are going to succeed at the screen game then we are going to have to use Jacquizz Rodgers a lot more than we did last season. And I think that a one-two punch will greatly benefit the Falcons. The main reason is that it will give Turner more rest in order for him to be stronger deeper into the season.
The second thing that Koetter was adamant about is the continued use of the no-huddle offense. This part of the offense, under Matt Ryan, has been one of the better aspects of the offense since Ryan’s arrival four years ago. If there is one thing that I personally would change is the part of the No-huddle where Ryan still takes the play clock down to one or two seconds before snapping the ball. When I think about the no-huddle, I think of a fast paced, get to the ball and snap it kind of tempo. When Ryan uses the no-huddle and still runs the play clock to near zero it almost seems like it works against them. One reason that it might work against them is the fact that the offensive lineman have to be down in the crouch for nearly thirty seconds. That is hell on your legs. Also, it gives the defense more time to read the formation and make signal changes. And I know that Ryan calls several different possible plays during that time, but it still allows the defense to read what the offense is doing as well as making the offensive lineman’s legs tired and thus more difficult for them to block defenders.
I believe that if Koetter wants to be a successful OC, then these are the two biggest aspects of the offense that he needs to concentrate on the most.