Mike Smith and Matt Ryan took some time at the beginning of the Atlanta Falcons' offseason program to talk to the media, and while you can't expect to glean anything earth-shattering from this kind of thing, there were items of interest as always.
I wasn't able to listen live until partway through, so I've rounded up some salient Tweets from our friends at the Falcons, ESPN's Vaughn McClure and Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik. Read and weigh in down in the comments, if you please.
No doubt Smitty seems much more animated and pointed about where the Falcons need to be. Not quite "Tomlin-esque" but he's setting the tone.— JP Peterson (@JPPeterson790) April 22, 2014
It's tough to read too much from tone and body language, but Smith did seem like he was coming out speaking about a return to winning, a return to the playoffs and not lower expectations in any way. For what that's worth.
It's fair to say that Julio's status is at least in the back of everyone's mind right now. The Falcons may or may not pick up his fifth year option, but barring catastrophe, I can't imagine Julio Jones leaving Atlanta under any circumstance. This is a smart way to address this without getting into the option. Worth noting that Smith said the team's focus was getting Julio ready for the first week of the season, too.
"It's not about your draft status, it's not about your paycheck. It's about winning the job." - Mike Smith, Falcons.— Scott Carasik (@ScottCarasik) April 22, 2014
Critically important attitude. Many fans and pundits have felt, justifiably, that draft status, paycheck and veteran status were weighted too heavily when doling out playing time in years past. If a humbling 2013 taught this coaching staff anything, let's hope it's this lesson.
Mike Smith says that good teams in the NFL must be able to run the ball and the offensive line has to be able to create a clean pocket.— Reggie Roberts (@FalconsPR) April 22, 2014
``We've got to win that,'' SMith said of third down and the pass rush.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) April 22, 2014
Blindingly obvious? Yes. If these statements turn out to be a reflection of what the Falcons are intent on successfully addressing this offseason, though, who cares?
Smith said he's excited about Jonathan Massaquoi as a pass-rusher.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) April 22, 2014
Music to my ears. Mass is arguably the most promising young pass rusher on the roster—scratch that, he is—so a focus on getting him his snaps will be essential in 2014.
Mike Smith says he had learned from 2013 and that he is the only person in Flowery Branch responsible for the team's 4-12 record.— Reggie Roberts (@FalconsPR) April 22, 2014
Far from true, but Smith has been and will continue to take a lot on his shoulders for the team's failings. That's an appropriate response, because Smith needs to be better for the team to be better. Let's hope they arm him with more talent going forward.
Smith: I hope someone asks me if I think we will make the playoffs this year. I would say yes. #RiseUp— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) April 22, 2014
This is where Smith may lose some fans and earn the derision of others, but when you're talking in April, no harm here. If you don't believe this, you're in trouble.
Smith said the team will get to London early Monday morning before the Sunday game.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) April 22, 2014
A week in London ensures at least one Falcon will come back with an annoying faux Cockney accent. "Bangers and mash, we took those Lions down the Thames in a wicker basket, wot!"
There's a lot of talk about big, strong men in here.— Daniel Cox (@FalconsDCox) April 22, 2014
"Sam (Baker) looks good, he looks like he's in really good shape." --Matt Ryan— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) April 22, 2014
Baker has looked healthy and then struggled before, obviously, but given the question marks surrounding him this is mildly reassuring.
"We've got an unbelievable turnout for the first two days of the offseason." --Matt Ryan— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) April 22, 2014
"Yesterday, during the team meeting, it looked like almost everybody was there." --Matt Ryan— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) April 22, 2014
We don't have numbers, but this is also exactly what you want to hear. Everyone needs to be on board with the changes this offseason is bringing.
Ryan mentioned seeing Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz first when talking about guys in the weight room— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) April 22, 2014
Again, weight room work only accomplishes so much, but coming off rough seasons, both Holmes and Konz need to put in an enormous amount of work to earn any snaps, much less compete for starting jobs. Ryan also talked about the Falcons' offensive line taking the criticism and poor play last year personally, and damn right you want to hear that.
"I think (Smitty) was on-point with his messaging...he didn't sugarcoat it or anything like that." --Matt Ryan— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) April 22, 2014
This goes along with Ryan talking about Smith being fired up in the locker room and on the sidelines, but he's specifically talking about the team meeting on Monday. I know many fans would like to see Smitty getting justifiably pissed more often.
"We don't need him to be Tony. We need him to be Levine Toilolo." --Matt Ryan— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) April 22, 2014
In the past year, one thing has become very clear: Levine Toilolo's teammates are very impressed with him. Excited to see what he does in 14— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) April 22, 2014
Ryan went on to say that Levine Toilolo has been around early and that the two of them have had conversations about Ryan's vision for the offense in 2014. He added that Toilolo is in great shape and that the two of them will be practicing together a ton. I fully expect him to be the starter in 2014, and if utilized correctly, he can be a real asset.
Ryan said he thought Devin Hester was a talented wide receiver back from Pro Bowl practices. Liked his route running today.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) April 22, 2014
This tells you the Falcons are planning to at least try Hester at receiver. Let's hope that experiment works better than it did for the Bears.