The Falcons have a not-so-great history of missing tackles. The fact that this issue has persisted despite the coaching staff’s efforts to correct it is one of my persistent frustrations with the team, though on balance I do think the team is improving.
That improvement—and the philosophical underpinnings Dan Quinn has installed, which is a focus on rugby-style tackling—may serve the team even better this year. That’s because leading with your helmet on a tackle could lead to a 15 yard penalty and, in egregious cases, an ejection from the game. It has never been more important to defenders to tackle well and with care not to become a missile.
As you’d expect, Quinn has thoughts about this, and he think the team’s approach is inline with the new rules.
It’s more when there’s time and space and an offensive player or a defensive player has the decision that they can put their head to the side and use their shoulder. You teach that anyway, but in the heat of it, you’ve seen some examples where we haven’t done that as well as we want. It’s going to take a hell of a lot of teaching and continued work on that, but, for us, I feel like it’s our responsibility to teach it the best.
The good news is that the Falcons have been preaching this for three-plus years at this point, so theoretically the number of times they run into major issues because of the new rule should be few and far between. You’re always going to have situations where a player leads with their head by accident or because there simply isn’t an alternative, but those occasions should be few and far between, and Atlanta’s emphasis should help them to avoid the extremely costly penalties and perhaps even ejections we’re sure to see this year.
It is nice to feel like the Falcons are ahead of the curve in this regard, at the very least, and I sincerely hope it translates into the team being on the right side of a costly call for a change at least once in 2018.