When you look at the 2014 Falcons, it's easy to see that changes need to be made. The team isn't playing with any level of consistency. They're not finishing games strong, having been outscored 84-24 in fourth quarters this season, and the coaching staff, in light of all the changes that could be made, seems to be inexplicably averse to making those changes.
Despite that, head coach Mike Smith has made a change to the team's practice schedule, a change that he explained to the media Thursday afternoon.
"We've done it in years past, where we go straight through, so our guys are getting off the field a little bit earlier and will have meetings after practice," Smitty said. "So just a little change that we've done in years past about halfway through the season - I thought that they adjusted to it well. It forces them to focus a little bit longer because they're on the field for walk-through and practice with no break."
Since the inability to finish games and the abysmally poor fourth quarter performances that accompany it have been one of the biggest obstacles for this team in 2014, this change actually makes a lot of sense. By keeping the team's physical preparation - the walk-through and the actual practice - consecutive, the team is engaged with physical, on-the-field work for a longer period of time. One would hope that this would result in greater stamina on game day.
That was Julio Jones' perspective on the schedule change. "It's better for us, and it's game-time situations," Jones said. "You can't really think in a game. You've just got to get up and go, and that's what we're doing now at practice, it's more get up and go and making sure everybody's in shape, like I said, to finish games."
The schedule change should have the added benefit of giving players more recovery time between the physical elements of practice and allow them to be fresher on game days. Roddy White said that this has been the reason for the mid-season shift in schedule in recent seasons. "Smitty always changes the schedule about halfway through the year to try to get us more rest and things like that, so it's not going to be anything different from what we've been doing around here," White said. "We did the same thing last year and the year before that. So the later it is in the season and things like that, guys get a little bit tired, so he gives us more time off the field and just more mental work than physical."
Smitty explained the specific schedule breakdown, saying, "It's meetings, walk-through, practice, meetings, and in the past, we've gone meetings, walk-through, eat lunch, have meetings again, practice, then they're done. So we're meeting at the end of the day." Smith also confirmed what White said about giving players more time for physical recover, saying, "It's to get our guys off their feet late in the season as far away as we can from the kickoff."
While it is nice to see the coaching staff make some kind of a change mid-season, the fact that Smith has made this change in past seasons as well somewhat lessens the impact. However, it should theoretically allow players to be more rested and physically ready on Sundays, and the consecutive walk-throughs and practices should allow the team to develop greater physical stamina to finish games more effectively.
What do you think about the practice schedule changes?