In Monday’s press conference, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn laid out his ideas for where exactly the Falcons need to improve to get back to contending for a ring.
They make a ton of sense and outline a lot of what’s wrong with this team.
Dan Quinn on what it will take for the #Falcons to be a Super Bowl contender next year:— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) December 24, 2018
- Win the turnover margin
-Being able to run the ball and stop the run
- Affecting the quarterback
Everything here is probably what you’ve been yelling at your television about all fall, and it all makes you hope the team will get aggressive once it’s time to start rectifying these ailments.
The big three
First, the turnover margin needs to be addressed. A lot of that comes with the secondary players not named Damontae Kazee taking a more active role in ball hawking and coming down with interceptions. The Falcons have dropped their fair share of picks this season, and we all know how important those are to a team’s success.
Fumbles happen in any myriad of ways, but an active defensive line tends to help with those, particularly on strip sacks. The Falcons are not in great shape at forcing fumbles, and you have to think that correlates directly with the dip in defensive line play.
Next, we have the run game on both sides of the ball. It doesn’t take a professional to tell you the team absolutely failed in running the ball and stopping the run this season, and that’s going to have to be a huge focus going forward.
Getting a healthy Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith back will absolutely help, as will addressing the guard spots. Brandon Fusco will likely slot back in at right guard once he’s healthy, so look for that left guard spot to get a big focus. Right tackle will also probably get a firm evaluation as well for new talent.
The run defense part of it is also aided by health, with major run stuffer Keanu Neal on his way back from an ACL tear. Deion Jones will have a full offseason of getting right as well, and we all know how important he’s been down the stretch. Adding a big, run-stuffing defensive tackle to go along with Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford and Deadrin Senat will have to be a big focus for the team going ahead.
As for that third part, it’s perhaps the most pinnacle of any need on the roster to address the pass rush. Quite frankly, Atlanta’s has been one of the worst in the league this year. This has got to get better if the team wants back in to contending for a championship.
Focusing on the pass rusher
This is where the most resources need to go in 2019. Takk McKinley is the only pass rusher guaranteed to return right now, with guys like Vic Beasley, Bruce Irvin, Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby very much on the roster bubble going ahead. Irvin, of course, is set to be a free agent, as is Shelby.
Irvin has played exceptionally well down the stretch, and has more than justified an extension from the Falcons. Reed has been quiet, Shelby is more of a run support guy and Beasley is the player who sparks a thousand conversations. He’s been better coming off the bench, though.
The team may need to reshape this entire unit to better fit what Quinn wants, though having McKinley back with more experience, Irvin as a mentor and perhaps a high draft pick and mid-tier free agent signing and draft pick could do the trick. This unit needs a lot of love, so let’s hope the Falcons give it what it needs to grow.
And while we’re talking about quarterbacks, let’s talk about not affecting our own.
The pass protection on Matt Ryan will have to exponentially better next season. He’s putting up MVP-level numbers with mediocre protection as an overall unit, with only Jake Matthews and Alex Mack to consistently rely on.
The team will have to evaluate the other spots, though, again, we imagine Fusco will return to right guard. Left guard and right tackle might need fresh faces, so we’ll see how the team chooses to address those spots.
So that’s what Quinn’s got. All of those make sense, and we’re sure you could add your own ideas for where else the team can improve.
It’s not far-fetched at all to imagine Atlanta getting back into contending talk next season, as they are a contender deep down, when healthy and properly coached.
They’re going to be hitting the reset button in a few places and hoping time heals all in others. Let’s all imagine a future where they figure all of this out before August 2019.