I somehow missed this yesterday, but Vaughn McClure at ESPN wrote up a fascinating article on Dan Quinn's plans to cut down on defensive penalties via a fairly unorthodox method.
Quinn said he intends to have officials at practice regularly to make sure his players get a better sense of when they cross the line.
The Falcons are not the most penalized team in the NFL, but they've had their share of dumb ones, and their secondary was particularly prone to costly pass interference and illegal contact calls. The biggest culprit was Robert Alford, a cornerback with tremendous skill and athleticism, but very little discipline. The team also suffered costly penalties on a number of other occasions, including Tyson Jackon's late hit on Aaron Rodgers in the insanely close Packers-Falcons battle of 2014, and just generally looked like an undisciplined, lousier version of the Mike Smith teams that were so successful from 2008-2012. That has to change.
There's no particular evidence that this method works—the Steelers and Panthers have used it, per McClure, but I don't know that they have metrics that show a decline in penalties—but on paper it's a smart idea. Ensuring guys pick up whistles for bad habits even in practice should, in theory, help them cut down on those penalties in game situations. Even if it doesn't quite have the desired effect, I can't imagine it'll hurt anything, and you have to like the initiative here.
This tells you Quinn has been troubleshooting his new team since he arrived in Atlanta, and with any luck he'll be able to fix some of the obvious, low-hanging issues affecting the team in a single offseason. What do you think of the plan?