A lot of questions surround Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons this year. Losing to Super Bowl Champion, Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC divisional round is not much of a Super Bowl hangover. However, the offense was clearly taken down a big notch from what it once was with Kyle Shanahan. People do understand that losing an offensive genius like Shanahan does hurt a team. However, when your offense is loaded with a top tier Wide Receiver in Julio Jones, and a solid tandem of running backs between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, touchdowns should not be hard to come by. But for 2016 MVP, Matt Ryan, and new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, getting the football in the end zone was their Achilles heel.
With questions arising about a change in Coordinator, or jabs about a system Quarterback made by Jalen Ramsey, this article is here to tell you how Atlanta Falcons and their fast paced defense might just be playing a home game come February 3rd, 2019.
There is reason to be skeptical around second year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. He has a history of being an alcoholic and never had previous NFL success. Those factors don’t point to immediate success in this kind of league. However, he has shown creativity in the offense and the ability to produce, it is just a matter of getting the football past the goal line. In addition, he will be calling plays from the sideline rather than the press box. This change should hope to give him and Ryan better communication.
Either way, it is not unheard of for Matt Ryan to struggle or under perform with first year offensive coordinators. Even with the prodigy Kyle Shanahan, Ryan’s numbers were down in 2015, throwing only 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His 2017 campaign was awfully similar. Ryan threw for 20 Touchdowns and 12 interceptions, slightly less yards, but had an overall better passer rating.
Even in a down year, for Jalen Ramsey to call Ryan and system quarterback is quite disrespectful. This is Matt Ryan’s fourth Offensive Coordinator. Despite that he has averaged a overall quarterback rating of 93.4 over the course of his career (Tom Brady’s Career QBR is 97.6). Ramsey’s comments just don’t fit the picture. Ryan has produced great seasons under offensive minds of Mike Mularkey, Dirk Koetter, and Kyle Shanahan. If you didn’t know, all three of those names are head coaches around the league. Clearly they were solid, but do not all run the same system, which completely disproves Ramsey’s comments.
Although Ryan’s 2017 campaign didn’t match the height of his 2016 MVP season, there’s is reason to believe, and historical evidence, that he could produce numbers like that again this year. Especially with an upgrade of weapons and another year under Steve Sarkisian’s belt in this organization.
In Dan Quinn’s tenure, the defense has only gotten faster and stronger. His ability to draft talent in late rounds and recreate a Legion of Boom like defense is why Quinn has had so much success. Pro Football Reference has the Falcons ranked at 8th in overall defense last season. Before Quinn came in, former head coach Mike Smith had Atlanta’s defense ranked 27th in 2014. In just 4 seasons, it has reached the top 10. That is an achievement to boast about. Especially considering 9 of 11 starters this season have been drafted in the Quinn era. Not only does that make this team young and fast, it proves that this defense was made elite by Quinn and should stay there or improve in the upcoming years.
His development of players drafted in the late round is what is so essential. We have seen Ricardo Allen become a great player, as well as De’vondre Campbell. This preseason, the diamond in the rough is second year corner Damontae Kazee. He has proven to be the real deal, laying down several hard hits, and picking up an interception early this preseason. Look for him to steal snaps at the nickel corner position over Brian Poole. He could even take over the job. With the speed of this team, depth in the secondary and mastermind of Dan Quinn, there is no reason to be worried on the defensive side.
The Final Word
Even if the offense doesn’t get back to 2016 form, this defense should be able to keep Atlanta a strong contender in a difficult NFC south and across the entire NFC Conference. Last season, Atlanta was able to win eleven of the eighteen games in regular season and postseason if they reached twenty points. That proves this defense is capable of shutting down offenses or at least keeping them contained. With an offense filled with established stars, a veteran in Sanu, young talent in Calvin Ridley and a developing Austin Hooper, twenty points is honestly underwhelming.
The 2018-2019 season could be another shot at the Super Bowl for Dan Quinn. However, a lot of the pressure sits on Steve Sarkisian and Matt Ryan. Together, they don’t need to put up forty points a game, however four scores should get the job done. The odds seem to be in their favor. I certainly believe so.