The Atlanta Falcons started their voluntary team workouts Monday, and on Tuesday Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Desmond Trufant spoke to the media about their expectations for the coming season and more.
On Kyle Shanahan
Both Ryan and Jones are confident in Shanahan and his scheme going forward. Jones says he believes in Shanahan to shape the offensive identity.
"I believe in everything Kyle [does] and puts in," Jones said. "For me, it's just that identity, like what we're going to be. You've got to be consistent. You've got to be great at certain things. And I just felt like we were just everywhere. We really didn't have an identity. I believe in everything [Shanahan] puts in. But my thing was being consistent and going out there and knowing what we were going to do."
Ryan said that he's excited Shanahan is in Atlanta for another season.
"I'm excited that he's back," Ryan said. "I'm glad to be in Year 2 in this system. I think we've learned a lot in Year 1 -- a lot about each other, a lot about the guys that we have in our locker room, a lot about what we can be, and a lot about what we don't need to be, and I'm looking forward to winning a lot of games with Kyle here as our offensive coordinator. I think a lot of guys in our locker room feel that way."
So what will that offensive identity be? Julio says he wants the offense to be dominant.
"To dominate, of course. We want to go out there and kick butt," Jones said. "And that's the mindset. But certain games, defenses are going to give us certain things. But we still have to have set amount of plays that we're known for and certain things that we're going to do."
On the offensive struggles
Ryan said that his comfort level in the offensive scheme was part of the problem last year.
"I think, certainly, I'm going to be much more familiar with what we're doing as we head into this next season than I was last year," Ryan said. "That's part of it when you're playing a new offense. There were some things that were different. You don't have quite as much experience with some of those things."
But Ryan's comfort and familiarity in the offense wasn't the only issue. Execution was a problem.
Ryan says correcting that issue begins now, in OTAs.
"I also think even when we had opportunities, when there was familiarity with things that we were doing, our execution was not where it needed to be," Ryan said. "And I think that's where we've got to find a way to get better. And that starts, to me, now, as we're in meetings and as we're starting to get a feel for who we're going to have in our locker room; who's going to be on the field for us. We've got to find ways to take advantage of each guy's specific skill set, and my specific skill set. And I think Kyle and our whole staff is really working hard on that. And I think we're going to make strides there."
As far as the criticism lobbed his way and in the direction of Quinn and Shanahan over the offensive struggles last season, Ryan said it goes with the territory.
"When you're not winning games, criticism goes in a lot of directions," Ryan said. "That goes with playing in this league, playing quarterback, being a head coach, being an offensive coordinator. I'm excited he's back. I think we learned a lot in year one about each other, a lot about what we can be and what we don't need to be. A lot of those things will serve us well."
On the passing camp in Miami
Ryan's passing camp in Miami this offseason was another step toward developing the comfort level this offense needs with each other and in the scheme.
Ryan said the turnout was good and the outcomes were great.
"I think everybody was more comfortable," Ryan said. "Jacob Tamme was new in a system, new to me. Justin Hardy was a guy who was always trying to get settled and figure out what he was doing. When we were in Miami and had a chance to work together, I could already tell we were a lot further along than we were even at certain points midway through the season last year."
On the new locker room layout
The Falcons have revamped their locker room, which may sound like a small thing, but it isn't.
There were previously lockers right down the middle of the room as well as around the perimeter. Players were generally arranged by position group, and the offense was separated from the defense.
The lockers in the middle of the room are gone, so there's nothing dividing the team. Julio Jones says it should facilitate team unity.
"I like the layout. It's very open. Guy can just mingle," Jones said. "Guys can sit down with different guys. It's not like the linemen are over here, the quarterbacks are over here and the receivers here. Everybody is just mixed up. Defensive and offense is kind of mixed up as well. Just to bond. We are trying to connect here. We want to connect more. That's what we are heading for right now."
Jones has a locker on the end of a row, so his only neighbor is Devonta Freeman.
"I'm on the corner, so it's just Free really," Jones said. "He talks a lot, but it's good. He asks a lot of questions as he should. He's still a young guy."
Ryan is next to center Alex Mack, and Trufant is next to safety Robenson Therezie and long snapper Josh Harris, so "a little bit of both," according to Trufant.
Trufant loves the new layout.
"I love it. It's cool," Trufant said. It's kind of like how I had in college, you know, where you can see everybody, you can talk to everybody. We kind of moved different spots. Different positions are mixed with other positions, so it's cool. It's really cool."