The Atlanta Falcons are facing some things that are extremely new to them. The offense is under the first new coordinator in four years– Matt Ryan’s entire stint with the team– as Dirk Koetter takes over for Mike Mularkey. Ryan has undergone a couple changes at the quarterback coach position (three in the last four years) but nothing that would change the scheme of the offense. As D. Orlando points out, the Falcons offense isn’t going to be completely overhauled from 2011; rather it will be tweaked and trimmed to gain more efficiency.
One thing that HC Mike Smith pointed out is that the relationship between Offensive coordinator and quarterback needs to be among the strongest in the NFL for the offense to operate effectively. I think the only thing that could rival that is a quarterback’s connection with his o-line and with his receivers. That aside, Ryan and Koetter have been working tirelessly to gain full command of the offense, and get on the same page with each other. The QB and OC need to be thinking the same thing at the same time. When that happens, it is a thing of beauty.
Of course, no article about Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense would be complete without a sound byte about Ryan getting stronger this offseason, and how his arm strength is clearly improved. A quote from Mike Smith:
"Matt, I think, has really progressed. I think you can see it physically that he’s bigger. I think his arm strength is much-improved from the first four years."
That is music to the ears of Falcons fans around the world.
The most interesting part of the AJC piece that I linked to, is Ledbetter’s observation that the Falcons offense truly struggled the first day of minicamp. It was a little troublesome to me, until I understood exactly why the offense was struggling. Apparently new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan was allowing his defense to do a great many things that the Falcons had not done in minicamps the past couple seasons. Rather than simply dropping into a very vanilla coverage, Nolan dialed up some exotic blitzes, and some simple blitzes that included various stunts and twists by the defense. At this early stage, the offense wasn’t fully prepared, and I doubt that the defense is ready for Week 1 yet either. But it certainly is an advantage for Ryan to get used to a bevy of defensive looks when preparing for the regular season. I doubt seriously whether coordinators are looking to run simple cover-2 against Atlanta all game every game. Picking up the blitz and delivering the ball is something they are already working on, and hopefully it will benefit the team during the season. One more quote from Mike Smith:
"It hasn’t been like the last few years, where Matt knows when he comes out here that the defense is going to install this coverage. It’s been a little bit more of a chess match between the offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator because it’s the first time that they’ve worked together in terms of how we install our offense and defense. This is the first sequence that we had to do it as a new staff. That’s always an interesting dynamic, not only for the coaches, but for the players."
It makes me happy that the offense is working as hard as it can to score, and that the defense isn’t holding back in getting after the offense. I guess that is how it should be. One final quote from Roddy White on the offense under Dirk Koetter:
"Dirk has made it easy. He has things that he’d like to do. We have some things that we like to do, and he just put it together and we’re rolling. Everybody has brought into the system. We are going to just keep rolling."
Dirk is using what worked in the past, and adding in his own flavor to the offense to make it just that much more potent. Apparently the players are loving it, and I daresay that the fans will love it during the 2012 season.