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Kyle Shanahan diagnoses the shaky state of the offense, wide receivers

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Former Falcoholic and current Atlanta Falcons writer Andrew Hirsh talks with Kyle Shanahan about the struggling Atlanta offense.

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If Kyle Shanahan doesn't sound like a man under the gun, it might be because his job security is better than we might think. But for a fanbase that frequently demands more candid answers from staff and players, Shanahan is pretty forthright in his weekly rundowns with Andrew Hirsh.

To wit:

Andrew Hirsh: I'd like to focus on the red zone today. Julio Jones doesn't have a touchdown in more than a month and mentioned that opponents are doing a good job taking him out of plays near and past the goal line. Is that simply because defenses are double-teaming him, or are there more complex strategies in place?

Kyle Shanahan: It's both. When you play a Tampa 2 team, you can't throw any jump balls. No one in the world does that, so you hope to get Julio on some single matchups. We try to move him around, get him as many opportunities as possible, but people understand that, also. When they do take him away, that's OK; it gives other guys real good looks. You have to come through with those looks, and until you do that, Julio is going to continue to see those coverages. The key isn't, "How do we get him away from double coverages?" It's, "What are the four other eligibles doing? Can we help those guys out? Can they make the defense pay?" The more they make them pay, the better looks Julio gets.

Bill Barnwell made the case that the Falcons were being plagued by mediocre receiver play earlier this week, and Shanahan certainly gestures gently in that same direction. Shanahan clearly would like to target Julio Jones, perhaps even to an extent that is unhealthy for the offense, but has the sense that no one is getting open.

In this same piece, Shanahan is nice to Ryan but readily admits he's got some bad turnovers.

AH: With Leonard Hankerson out for the year, is there an expectation that Justin Hardy will step up and become a major contributor?

KS: Yeah, he needs to. We need everybody to step up. We've struggled since Hank has been out. It's been a while now and we need everyone to step up—especially in our pass game. We have to help out with all the five eligibles, move the ball, get our points that way. We need to create threats there, which will make it easier to run the football.

This is true, and it has everything to do with Hankerson's ability to get open and become a factor in the red zone, even if he was the author of too many drops and missed opportunities.

AH: Are you seeing him continue to gain a better grasp of your offense?

KS: Yeah, Matt's played a long time, so he's made those decisions before. He gets what happened on them. He got a little bit greedy on a two-minute drill trying to make a big play trying to get us back into it, and he made a mistake right there. He knows that without me having to tell him; it's a pretty obvious thing for him. He's played a lot of football. He tried to make a play there and should have checked down, but that's stuff we talk about all the time. Matt's played a lot of good football in his career, he's done a lot this year, too, and I know he has a lot of good football ahead of him.

This may not change your mind about Shanahan—one article can't do that—but it certainly gives you his perspective on the offense. If the Falcons choose to stick with him in 2016, you can bet receiver will be a priority for this team. Give the whole piece and read and see what you think.