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Dan Quinn’s trying to make the Falcons an elite tackling team

He and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel have ambitious plans.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Dan Quinn is all about transforming a Falcons defense that has long been a laughingstock into one of the league’s premier units. That means speed, physicality, gobs of turnovers, and a nasty attitude. It also means great tackling.

Mike Smith was also a proponent of fundamental tackling, but the primary difference between Quinn’s defense and Smitty’s has a lot to do with talent, youth, and the philosophical underpinnings of the tackling. Smith simply never had a defense this good and this young, and the younger the player, the easier it is to get the lessons to sink in.

Quinn’s lesson is a logical one, too: Use your leverage, tackle with the shoulder closest to the player, never face a ball carrier head-on if you can help it, and run through contact. There’s more to it than that, of course, but Quinn’s sensible to emphasize points like this, and if the results didn’t completely show up on the field last year, they may just this year. That’s the beauty of having a defense that buys in, and the youth you need to impress these principles upon.

I’m eager to see if the overall team speed and the focus on tackling leads to the Falcons limiting big plays this season, which in conjunction with a lethal offense should lead to a pretty terrific season. If you’re eager to see Quinn’s philosophy in action, watch to see how this team tackles in 2017.