Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn has Falcons’ arrow pointing up


It was the evening of Sunday, December 28 2014.

The Atlanta Falcons’ season came crashing down. They had been beaten down by the Carolina Panthers at home and the hopes of a playoff berth had evaporated. Change was needed.

And that’s exactly what happened. Nearly nine months later, the Falcons have slowly picked themselves off the ground and prepared for the 2015 season. Looking back, it’s hard to fault any of the steps along the way this offseason.

Coaching changes

First up, it was the coaching changes. Of the options available, Dan Quinn was a good fit as head coach. Atlanta desperately needed help on defense, and it starts with the leader. Quinn brings new life and energy to the unit with his fast and physical philosophy. Coming off the back of consecutive Super Bowl appearances with the Seahawks, he knows what it takes to build a championship-caliber defense, even if it will take some time to build the personnel in Atlanta.

The other big move was to bring in Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. Shanahan is a future head coach in the making, and his zone blocking scheme could make the Falcons’ offense even better than it already was. The focus is on balance between the run and pass, and this is a constant point of emphasis.

Free agency

The Falcons were always going to be active in free agency, particularly on defense. The acquisitions of defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien Schofield as well as linebackers Justin Durant and Brooks Reed were strong. While they had to splash out the cash to bring in these names, Atlanta avoided mortgaging its future by going after a player like Darrelle Revis or Ndamukong Suh, as great as it would be to have either player on the roster.

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Leonard Hankerson was another smart move. The wide receiver understands Shanahan’s scheme after playing under him in Washington, and he is making a fresh start in Atlanta after an injury-plagued career.


We can’t judge the draft class yet, but so far it’s looked a good one. First round pick Vic Beasley has flashed his star potential throughout preseason. Running back Tevin Coleman had a strong performance against the Ravens after missing some time with a hamstring injury, and receiver Justin Hardy has looked comfortable on offense all preseason long.

Fifth-rounder Grady Jarrett was considered a draft steal by some back in May, and he lit up the Ravens in the fourth preseason game, perhaps giving us a glimpse into the future of the player he can become. Jarrett could one day be the anchor in the center of the Falcons’ defense.

The only disappointment so far has been cornerback Jalen Collins, selected in the second round. This was always to be expected though coming off the back of broken foot. Rookie cornerbacks often struggle early, so it’s hardly time to panic.


The biggest surprise throughout preseason was the consistent play on defense. All of a sudden, Atlanta discovered what pass rush means. Clayborn and Beasley were stars, and we also saw strong performances from Schofield and Paul Worrilow. We saw some excellent performances from the unit and that’s without star cornerback Desmond Trufant, who missed all four games.

Offensively, the unit was rolling the opening two games. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones looked in midseason form when on the field together. Hankerson and Hardy highlighted the Falcons’ depth at receiver this year. The biggest concern was with the offensive line, which was blown away by Miami in the third game. The performance of the line will go a long way in determining the success of this team in 2015.

Through each step, the Falcons have made progress. Considering where this team was back in December, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic moving forward. This is Dan Quinn’s team, and he has the Atlanta Falcons’ arrow pointed firmly upward.

Next: NFC South Power Rankings: End of preseason

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