Today ESPN blogger Pat Yasinskas came out with his Atlanta Falcons Camp Confidential. It is one of the longest posts of the season that he dedicates solely to the Falcons. He said a lot of things that I expected, but also a couple things that I hadn’t even thought about.
- Falcons fans, players, and front office people alike are counting on the hiring of new offensive and defensive coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan to make the difference over 2011. Having them see the same players from a different perspective will certainly help as they mix things up. Koetter will be beneficial to the continued development of Matt Ryan, and Nolan has always made a difference wherever he has been the defensive coordinator. And he has been the head of defenses for 14 years.
- Three topics that Yasinskas brings up that are controversial or represent big questions for the Falcons are the use of Michael Turner (i.e. how many carries will he get in 2012), the use of the word ‘positive’ when referring to the Falcons coordinators (I guess as opposed to Mularkey and Van Gorder?), and where the pass rush is going to come from. Our very own Cam Adamczyk tackled this very issue yesterday, and it is obvious his age is an issue. I find it hard to believe that Thomas Dimitroff and the front office would say things as subtle slights to the previous coordinators, but I can tell you that I personally would find it difficult to hold back my true feelings on them. I’m glad they’re gone. I just hope our new coordinators are better.
- Speaking of coordinators, the pass rush is what Mike Nolan is hoping to bring. Nolan has been various locations as a coordinator, but wherever he goes he turns that D into a top-10 unit. He is going to do whatever he can to bring pressure on the quarterback, and that includes blitzing linebackers, safeties, and even corners. Whereas Van Gorder was known for playing a very vanilla Cover-2 defense, Nolan will bring pressure from all different areas. That’s enough to give some identity to this Falcons defense.
- I really like the ‘swagger’ that Asante Samuel has brought to this defense. I’m not a huge fan of that word, but it’s exactly what he is bringing to this team. We have been known as a sit-back-and-wait vanilla defense who didn’t talk a lot. With the introduction of Nolan and the feisty Samuel, this defense has to be more confident and ready to go out and crack some skull. (Pardon the phrase Mr. Goodell.
- Yasinskas’ reason that Falcons fans should feel optimism is Matt Ryan. I have a hard time arguing with him. There is a wealth of talent at the offensive skill positions surrounding him, Ryan has been very good in past seasons, and shows all signs that he is going to get better. Add on the offense that will include more down-field passing, the screen game, and that Ryan has been bulking up and added arm strength, and the needle is certainly pointing up for Ryan. Yasinskas believes this is the season that Ryan will move into the elite category. If they really let him loose with the no-huddle offense, I believe it will happen.
- If there is something to feel optimistic about, there is also something to feel pessimistic about. Without a doubt, nobody should feel really good about the offensive line situation. Is Sam Baker going to perform? Will Todd McClure hold up? Can Peter Konz win the right guard position– I mean really win it? I can’t honestly answer those with absolute certainty. I hope it all works out, but there are certainly questions surrounding this line.
- Peria Jerry has been working out with the 1st team defensive line. I assumed this was going to happen a couple weeks ago, and he’s only with that unit because Corey Peters is still injured. Peters will get his job back when he returns, but if the Falcons could get good production from Jerry in 2012, that would be outstanding.
- Yasinskas also shot down fans’ thoughts that Lamar Holmes would be the Falcons starting left tackle in 2012. Its not realistic in 2012, and I would like to see us draft a left tackle in 2013.
- I hope you have read all the way down to this final point, because this little nugget was the one that stood out the most to me that was really innovative thought, something I hadn’t thought of before. Yasinskas talks about how people expect Dunta Robinson to play nickel corner for the ‘Birds, and that Grimes and Samuel will play the outside. Yasinskas says, however, that on obvious running downs, that they Falcons might be wise to remove Samuel from the field to preserve his health, and to add a strong, run playing corner. Samuel is physical against the receiver, but isn’t particularly strong playing the run game. Robinson is excellent at this. I agree with Yasinskas– to a point. This day and age in the NFL, people don’t always run on first down. Lots of teams (like the Packers and Saints) treat every down like third down, and there really wouldn’t be a good situation for the Falcons to take Samuel off the field. I understand where he is coming from, and we all know that Robinson plays the run better, but I just don’t know when you’d want a playmaker like Samuel off the field.