By Itoro N. Umontuen
Wednesday, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn held a press conference at the team’s training facility in Flowery Branch. Alongside Quinn were new offensive coordinator Dirk Keotter and new assistant Ben Kotwica. Three action items stood out from today’s press conference.
1) The Atlanta Falcons must regain their consistent form on the defensive side of the ball. Whether it was the inability to get off the field on third down, giving up 26.4 points per game during the 2018 campaign, or giving up too many yards as the Dirty Birds were 28th in the league in total defense (384.5 yards per game), Quinn recognizes improvements must be made.
“We’re looking for real consistency,” Quinn said of what he wants moving forward. “There [were] definitely times during the 2017 season we improved as a defense. Then I thought [it felt like] when you take two steps forward one step back. I wanted to make sure if I could have an impact and an influence on the defense and really play to a style that was true to how I would like it to look I should be the one making the calls.”
By comparison, the 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense led by Quinn gave up 14.4 points per game.
2) The Atlanta Falcons need more production from their defensive linemen. While Quinn was in Seattle during their Super Bowl run, their defense had 44 sacks and 28 interceptions. More importantly, the play of the Seahawks’ defensive line was key. Michael Bennett had 8.5 sacks, Cliff Avril had 8 sacks, and the quarterback was hit 99 times over the 16-game regular season. By comparison, the Falcons notched 37 total sacks during the 2018 season and hit the quarterback 77 times.
Notably, the contract statuses of defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and defensive tackle Vic Beasley were not discussed during Wednesday’s presser.“I love tough, hard-nosed defensive play,” Quinn said. “I think to be championship-caliber teams, you better have an edge to you. The best defenses I’ve been a part of have had a good ball-hawking mindset and if you can do that and eliminate explosive plays, you have a really good chance to do well.”
3) Dirk Koetter was named offensive coordinator after Quinn fired Steve Sarkisian. Today, Koetter pledged to institute a balanced offensive philosophy.
“I’m going into my 38th year of coaching and I’ve never met a defensive coach who didn’t say the hardest thing to defend is balance,” Koetter said. “I believe in that, too. When you’re in a first- or second-down situation and the defense doesn’t know if you’re going to throw it, run it, play-action, bootleg it – whatever you want to do – any defensive coach will tell you that’s the hardest thing to defend.
“Since balance is the hardest thing to defend, we will shoot to be as balanced as we can. Now, there’s thing like time and score and injuries that can affect that, but we’re going to definitely shoot for that.”
While the Falcons have a group of skill players that most teams would covet, love, and lust over; Atlanta’s inability to protect the quarterback has been an issue since the team’s run to Super Bowl LI.
“With every team, you can have the greatest skill players in the world, but your O-line and your D-line set the tempo for your team,” Koetter said. “Injuries are a part of that. Let’s not forget the Falcons had two offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl. Everything is a work in progress, but whether it’s the run game or whether it’s pass protection, really everything starts with the O-line.”
This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice.