Dan Quinn is an unwaveringly positive dude. I'm sure he can be an angry dude behind closed doors, but the image he projects is of a man thrilled with his football team, thrilled with his opportunities, and legitimately optimistic about the Falcons' chances. As a constant cynic, I find it both refreshing and terrifying, and that was certainly the case today when Quinn stopped by ESPN.
I recommend reading Kelsey Conway's five takeaways from his appearance today, but I did want to focus in on a couple of things in particular that resonated with me. The first was about the intensity, as cliche as it is to bring that up, because it's been such a focal point for Quinn and is so critical. If you remember the dozen or so plays on defense last year where Jameis Winston or Cam Newton or (insert running back here) picked up a few extra yards because someone was loafing or not focusing on finishing, you appreciate the message and hope it sinks in. If they preach it enough--and if players improve--I do believe this defense will be a much more fearsome unit than it was a year ago.
Of course, intensity means very little if you don't tackle well, and that was the other piece of the ESPN appearance that appealed to me. The Falcons have traditionally been a team that tackles pretty poorly, and last year was no exception, with way too many missed opportunities and lousy form on hits that cost the team dearly. So when Quinn says this...
"We are a leverage-based, shoulder tackling team," Quinn said. "We really emphasize the strike zone."
I like that. Getting something repeatable and solid in place for everyone on the team isn't going to eliminate mistakes, but it is going to cut down on them. Given how many games the Falcons lost last year because of one or two major mistakes, I'll take that.
Make this defense more tackle better and play with more intensity, and get the offense to rebound from an up-and-down 2015, and this team might just be in business. That might be a little Dan Quinn optimism rubbing off on me.