Dan Quinn showed an overwhelming amount of trust in his ability to turn around his team’s struggling defense. He fired Marquand Manuel and kept the defense essentially the same, with the only new starter being a run-stuffing tackle. The message was clear: Marquand was the problem. Not the talent.
Quinn bet his job on improving a bad defense. Now many expect him to be fired soon, if not at the end of the season.
So what happened? NFL analyst Brian Baldinger looked at the tape from the Rams game. As expected, there is a lot wrong. Unexpected was Baldinger becoming so agitated at how poor the defense plays. He is an honorary Falcons fan after screaming at this team.
.@RamsNFL v @AtlantaFalcons on 3-12 give up another conversion. #32 in the @Nfl with fewest sacks and worst 3rd down defense by a long shot. Why? They simply cannot get their assignments down. But why? #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/QCbSrk57Yb— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 25, 2019
Unsurprisingly, players are confused.
“I can’t ever remember a defense being 55% allowing teams to convert [third downs].... I don’t know what De’Vondre Campbell is doing. He’s not guarding anybody. He has no responsibility over there. There’s no back there.... They can’t get their assignments correct.”
This is unacceptable in year five of Dan Quinn’s defense. Campbell is a veteran player and has no excuse for his play this season. He turned from an up-and-coming developmental player into a major liability. Even ignoring this play, Campbell has been begging to get benched.
These breakdowns are very confusing. Quinn runs a pretty straight forward defensive scheme that allows more athletic players to make plays. You can compare and contrast it to Mike Nolan’s exotic, overcomplicated scheme. Players should not be struggling with the concepts in year 4.
“Where are they going? And for what? It’s baffling. What is [Damontae] Kazee doing? No one can think that’s right.... You can’t possibly... where were you going? Is there any answer for any of this? Man, just bad. Just bad football.”
Baldinger gets increasingly agitated at the disaster that is this defense. He gets a small taste of what it is like being a Falcons fan and he becomes irate at Allen Bailey. This is how fans feel every week.
“There’s only one play right here. It’s a hitch to the outside. That’s it. That’s the only play it can be. Let me show you this reaction. This is unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable. If you’re a defensive end right here, this is your play. Right now. The left foot is in the ground, you turn the hips, and you chase, right here, right now. This is not acceptable.”
Baldinger lays into Allen Bailey for messing up a fundamental concept. Bailey is a talented veteran who should not be making these mistakes. There is obvious blame on Quinn for this defense. It is putrid.
Another problem may be the level of talent. It’s possible, and even likely, that a lot of these players are simply not worth starting. The blame for that again lies with Quinn, who gets to handpick the players. He’s used a first-round pick on two defensive ends. Neither would be starting on nearly any other team. He ignored adding an impact player along the defensive line, at linebacker, or even in the secondary this offseason.
Add mediocre talent and bad coaching together and you get this defense. I’ll let Baldinger sum up this defense.
“There’s a reason why they are last in the league on third downs. Last in the league in sacks.... This is so aggravating. It’s just unacceptable.”