I think we can quash this 3-4 talk for the moment. Expect it to rear its head by 2013 at the earliest, but Mike Smith and Mike Nolan seem to agree that this should be a 4-3 team.
That's what I got out of Nolan's conversation with the AJC's Chris Vilvamore yesterday. Nolan is refreshingly honest about his limited familiarity with the players—nobody comes in knowing Spencer Adkins' jersey number and favorite cheeseburger right away, folks—and how he envisions this defense functioning.
First, the things you won't like to hear. Nolan says he believes the defense is on the right track, which might be true but isn't likely to thrill fans who suffered through BVG's chronically underachieving secondaries. He also played company man on the defensive coaching staff, saying it appears that Mike Smith wants that staff to return. Frankly, if Nolan wants different guys, I don't want Smith's attachment to Tim Lewis & Co. to stand in his way.
The good news? He tells Knox Bardeen that the nickel is going to be a focal point for the defense, given the increasingly pass-happy NFL of today. While it may not be the base defense, as Bardeen suggests, you can bet that the secondary will be a focal point
He also made some encouraging remarks about the pass rush, saying he prefers to vary his blitzes depending on the quarterback his teams are squaring off against. That means the pass rush for Cam Newton will be vastly different than the one for, say, Sam Bradford. I'm a big fan of coordinators who recognize that not every offense is the same and are willing to make the necessary adjustments, something we regularly bashed Brian Van Gorder for.
In essence, Nolan's getting his feet wet with this defense, but already has an overaching philosophy of a strong pass defense and varied pass rush that I can get behind. Once he's familiar with the Falcons' D, I expect you'll hear a lot more.
What's your opinion of Nolan?