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The New Falcons Will Have Multiple Personalities

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May 12, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (front) and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan look on during Falcons rookie camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
May 12, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (front) and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan look on during Falcons rookie camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

The Falcons carved out a clear identity from 2008-2011.

They were the team that ran first, passed second. They were the defense that put an emphasis on stopping scoring, but was ill-equipped to deal with long third downs. They were a team that was staunchly conservative in an era where teams were opening up offenses and gambling a bit more on defense. It was an identity that led to sustained regular season success--four straight winning records, three playoff berths--but played poorly against aggressive teams in the playoffs.

That's all changing now, but perhaps not in the way you might think.

We've spent a ton of time discussing what Dirk Koetter means to the offense (more screen passes, more of a vertical passing attack, less rushing). We've spent more time talking about what Mike Nolan means to this defense (more aggression, more nickel packages, different personnel groupings than under Brian Van Gorder). All of that is legitimate, but it's not really the whole story.

You see, these Falcons have mostly the same players as a year ago. They have the same head coach in Mike Smith, a guy who clearly liked a more conservative gameplan with a few crazy plays mixed in. The coordinator changes mean a lot of different looks, but they're not going to move away entirely from pounding Michael Turner and digging in on a zone defense.

This is a great thing, though. The Falcons need to have multiple personalities in today's NFL, where the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to constantly change up your identity. If they can offer a strong ground game on two downs, connect on a deep throw on third and switch up their looks when the other team gets the ball, they're in prime position.

How do you think the Falcons will change, offensively and defensively, in the coming season?