This coaching staff is legit.
I must admit, I was a bit more concerned about this game than the average viewer. I work with a diehard, knowledgeable Eagles fan, and he left me headed into Monday wondering whether or not we could handle the Eagles' defensive front. Not only did we handle it for the majority of the game, the team looked prepared to play in spite of having players that either just got off the plane (Levitre) or hadn't played any real football in some time (Trufant, Roddy). That speaks volumes to me about how much the players have bought into Dan Quinn's ideals. If that wasn't enough, google images of Eric Weems giving Quinn the game ball after the game. It'll tell you all you need to know.
For the last few seasons, I have been wondering if the problem with the Atlanta Falcons lies more with the roster or the coaching. If Mike Smith was saddled with a bad roster, it may take a few years for Dan Quinn to add the appropriate talent. It is still early, but the roster looks more than competent enough for a playoff run. I think this is best summed up by the impressive turnaround of Ricardo Allen. The old regime cut Allen, then later stashed him on the practice squad. The new staff switched his position, and he not only won us game one, but looked impressive all night. Fans should be optimistic.
Pre-season performance has translated into the regular season for some free agent additions.
The promising play of Adrian Clayborn and O'Brien Schofield has continued from the pre-season. While neither player recorded a sack, they both caused havoc in the first half. Schofield recorded three hits in the first half, before fading with the rest of the defense. He played admirably well against one of the better right tackles in Lane Johnson. Clayborn wasn't as effective as a pass rusher, yet forced multiple penalties and made several stops in run defense. Both players look to be absolute bargain deals from this past off-season.
Haters gonna hate.
This team is going to surprise people this year. There will be plenty of reasons to doubt them, from shaky offensive line play to a weak strength of schedule. That said, there's no denying the across-the-board improvements. The result? A much more competitive team, one capable of defeating even the best teams on any given night. The Falcons won't always get lucky. They're going to make enough mistakes to lose games this season - that's inevitable. But if the team stays true to its principles, they're going to be competitive. Last night's game had a familiar feel to it. The Falcons did enough in the first half to get us all very excited. Then they proceeded to come out completely flat in the second half. A heated, yelling Dan Quinn got his defensive coaches back on track and with a little luck, the team pulled out a win.
There will be hiccups.
This is trite, but I think most of us would have liked to come out of this game with the sense that these Falcons were going to be amazing in 2015, and Dan Quinn was a coaching god. Instead, we got a very uneven performance, complete with a familiar third quarter meltdown, a tiring defense, and some bone-headed play calls on offense. This may be a great team sooner rather than later, but we best be prepared for some ugliness along the way.
Roddy White isn't done.
The demise of White may have been a bit exaggerated. While Leonard Hankerson generated some hype throughout the offseason, it's clear the 33-year-old White still has a something left in the tank. He caught four passes for 84 yards — with three 20+ yard receptions — for an average for 21 yards per catch. White routinely ran away from the Eagles' defensive backs on crossing routes. Other teams may key in on that down the road, but it's a welcome sight to see the long-time Falcon put in a nice performance coming off elbow surgery.
The new team is a work in progress, but a promising one.
It's funny, once the ball is snapped, the things we understand before the game are often forgotten. Going in, we expected the offensive line to be a liability and the run game to be stagnant. We also expected the defense to struggle at times, but to be better overall than the 2013/2014 units. Once the ball was snapped, we saw the potential for perfection and when it didn't happen, many fans felt discouraged. However, the reality is we saw an impressive win against a quality opponent, with many encouraging signs. The OL held up well. The run game looked significantly better. The defense looked dominant for stretches, and competent overall. We should have never expected perfection out of the gate; we knew this team was going to be a work in progress. This game showed that this team has tremendous promise: now they need to find a way to consistently deliver on it.