The Falcons' offense has been pretty consistent through Matt Ryan's career, particularly over the past few years without an adequate ground game. Center Joe Hawley spoke to the media this week regarding the new offensive scheme, the transitions involved with a new coaching staff, and how current offensive line personnel fit with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's vision for this offense.
Shanahan is transitioning Atlanta to a zone blocking scheme, and Hawley seems to be fully on board. "I've run some zone schemes before, but nothing quite like this," Hawley said. "The way Kyle kind of has it going is there's a lot of outside attack and ... a lot of wide zones attacking the perimeter, and I've never been a part of that, and I'm really excited because I think it fits my skill set tremendously and I can't wait to get started out there."
We've heard a lot about the energy and enthusiasm Dan Quinn and his staff are bringing to Flowery Branch, and there's been an emphasis on teaching fundamentals alongside the new scheme. That's been Hawley's experience with the new offensive coaches as well. "All the new coaches are full of energy and in the first meeting they told us they brought them in because they were guys who know how to teach, and that's what they're all about," Hawley said. "They're all about teaching the technique, teaching what we need to do to get better, and I'm really excited to work with them."
As new coaches came into Atlanta during the Mike Smith era, there was an emphasis on adapting their changes into the existing system. There was an effort to keep offensive terminology the same even under different coordinators. According to Hawley, it truly will be a new-look offense in Atlanta this year. "Obviously there's a lot of teaching right now, because we're installing a new offense. And since I've been here, they've kind of overhauled the whole offense," Hawley said. "It's completely different. In the few first years, when new coaches would rotate in, they've kept the base offense together, the terminology and all. So a lot of that's changed."
This team has desperately needed some kind of running game for several seasons, and that's a priority for Shanahan. Hawley says Shanahan has a very specific plan in place to get the ground game going, and it will benefit the offense across the board. "I know Kyle Shanahan's going to run the ball, and I'm very excited about it, and the way he's going to run it is going to attack the perimeter, Hawley said. "And as an offensive line, you've got to love that, because ... running the ball is not only going to help with scheme, but passing the ball as well. And that's going to slow down the pass rushers, where the past couple of years, I feel like the pass rush has been teeing off and worried about the pass because they don't really have to worry about the run. So [Shanahan's] going to set up the run, and that's really going to help us all out as a group."
As far as existing personnel, Hawley feels like the group they currently have on the roster are all good fits for the zone blocking scheme. "Yeah, I think our whole group is very athletic," Hawley said. "I think that's what [Shanahan] wants. He wants guys that are in shape and that can run. We're running sideline to sideline constantly, and we're not just dropping back 50 times. We're going to run a lot of play action, play fast, and I think all of our guys are athletes and run, and that's what they want."