By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The Atlanta Falcons are off to a 1-3 start. The beginning of the Dan Quinn era started great but it’s been all downhill since the Super Bowl LI debacle.
On Sunday, the Falcons lost to Tennessee (2-2) 24-10. The Titans are not a good football team and this was a home game, so this is a bad loss. The question is who is to blame for this terrible start? Can Atlanta turn this season around?
“It is a tough loss, and we’re as disappointed as our fans are,” Quinn said. “You better believe we’re going to look at everything. When you’re sitting at 1-3, you want to make sure you’re finding the answers.”
The first person to start with is head coach Dan Quinn. He took over as the HC in 2015. He’s a former defensive coordinator and so far he has not produced a good defense in Atlanta. They ranked 28th in total defense last season. This season they make every team look like super stars.
Marcus Mariota has been a bust thus far in his NFL career. He’s consistently injured and his play is inconsistent. He played poorly in the previous two losses before they broke that streak against the Falcons. He had 227 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and completed 66% of his passes.
Rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown had 3 receptions, 94 yards and 2 TD’s. Derrick Henry rushed for 100 yards. You can see the defense didn’t stop the run or pass.
The talent on the roster has been built by Quinn over the last 5 years. Sadly, they are in the same position they were in back in 2015.
“When you see Atlanta, what bothers you is if they don’t get to the quarterback, it’s all about speed (in the secondary),” Phil Simms said on “The NFL Today” studio show. “They play one defense. Guys wide open.”
The defense under Quinn consistently has gaping holes in the zone coverage, poor angles to pass-catchers and lack of speed in the secondary. The first two things can be attributed to Quinn’s defensive design and poor technique by his players.
The strength is supposed to be on the offense and they are playing poorly. Dirk Koetter is back in his second stint as offensive coordinator in 2019.
He previously held the OC position in Atlanta from 2012-14. Some of the growing pains might be from him trying to get familiar with the new talent on the roster.
Atlanta also has a poor offensive line they tried to fix in the offseason. They drafted two offensive linemen in the first round and guard Chris Lindstrom broke his foot in the season opener.
Guard Jamon Brown left the Titans game with a concussion in the first half and could not return.
Center Alex Mack has never missed a game in his Falcons career but he had to leave Sunday’s game with an elbow injury. He was able to return later in the third quarter.
Because of the poor line play, Atlanta cannot run the ball or protect Matt Ryan. The Falcons are ranked 27th in rushing offense with 70 yards per game. Ryan has 8 TD’s and 6 interceptions this season.
He’s second in the league in passing yards behind Patrick Mahomes by less than 200 yards. The difference is Mahomes has 10 TD’s and no INT’s.
There are two division rivals playing with backup quarterbacks and Atlanta still will not win the division. Hopefully they end up with a top 5 pick at the end of the year.
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Unfortunately, the season did not end the way the Atlanta Falcons had envisioned. With all of the confetti falling to the ground, and the New England Patriots celebrating the historic come-from-behind win in the Super Bowl, the questions immediately began for Atlanta.
The franchise was already aware that Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shannahan, would be moving on to become the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons also knew that quarterbacks coach, Matt LaFleur, would become the Offensive Coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. What took many by surprise was the major shuffle on the defensive side as well.
Coach Dan Quinn decided to remove Richard Smith as defensive coordinator and also dismissed defensive line coach, Bryan Cox. However, no matter who is running the offense or defense from the sidelines, what will determine the success of the Falcons’ future is who is lining up on the field. Let’s take a look at what the Falcons can do to take that final step next season.
On offense, there really aren’t many changes that need to be made. New offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, comes into a pristine offense that just set historic NFL records for scoring.
Matt Ryan is coming off of an MVP season, the running game is a two-headed monster with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Of course, the receiving corp is led by the incomparable Julio Jones, and the offensive line has a great mix of youth and experience.
Draft possibilities for the offense would include offensive guard Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame or Ethan Pocic out of LSU.
If Atlanta looks to the free agent market to bolster the offensive line, Green Bay’s TJ Lang could provide a quality upgrade on the interior line. Other than line depth or upgrades, this side of the ball is practically intact and ready to build on what is in place.
Obviously, this is the side of the ball that Dan Quinn and the front office want to improve upon given the coaching shakeup. There is still a need for quality pass rushers up front.
As we saw in the playoffs, when Atlanta was able to get pressure on Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady, things went amazingly well; when that pass rush wore down? Let’s not go there.
Vic Beasley should continue to progress and seemed to flourish learning from pass rush specialist Dwight Freeney. Atlanta should keep Freeney around for one more season, limit his snaps early to have him fresh for the late season and hopefully playoffs.
The upcoming draft has a solid group of potential sack masters, and Atlanta should prioritize defensive line. This could be a year for Atlanta to make another “Julio Jones” type of move and trade up early to make a run at Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M.
If not, stay at 31 and see if Charles Harris from Missouri or Derek Barnett are available in that draft spot.
In free agency, Atlanta could target New York Giant Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul is still a fierce pass rusher, despite his recent firework incident. Calais Campbell could be a possibility as defensive end or even move inside at 300 pounds. The Cardinals are not in a good spot when it comes to the salary cap and have other high priorities on the roster.
If Atlanta wants to make a move in the secondary, which will automatically get better with their best cover corner Desmond Trufant back healthy, the Falcons could take a run at Atlanta native and best safety in the game, Eric Berry from the Chiefs. It would be a huge boost for the team and a great chance for Berry to come back home and play for his hometown team.
Many teams are not always able to follow up great seasons with another run at the Super Bowl; injuries, chemistry, and sometimes just plain luck don’t always stick around.
However, with the franchise making immediate moves already, it shows that they were not satisfied just to get there. The team wants to take the next step, and right now it seems they are in great shape to do just that.