Before the 2018 season wrapped up it was clear the Falcons would be reworking their feeble defense. Injuries were only part of the problem and Dan Quinn took the almost unprecedented move to name himself defensive coordinator. The bold move adds pressure on Quinn who has no one to blame if the defense struggles again.
Over a week into free agency the team refused to sign a single new defensive player. They kept depth corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson and defensive end Steven Means on one-year deals. They have not been in on any starters, let alone impact players.
Instead they added two new guards in James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, brought back wide receiver Justin Hardy, signed tight end Luke Stocker, brought back Logan Paulsen, brought back quarterback Matt Schaub, and signed running back and returner Kenjon Barner.
The plan is pretty clear. The Falcons have 9 draft picks, including 7 in the first 172 picks. Whether or not the Falcons trade down (not happening) or up (almost guaranteed), the total number of picks will be heavily defense. Think 80% defense.
Quinn is betting he can not only better coordinate this defense but that he can coach up a wide range of rookies. It is nearly a guarantee the Falcons will add (at least) one defensive end, one defensive tackle, one corner, and one linebacker. Each of those will play heavy snaps in their rookie year.
The defense should improve over last year strictly due to health but Quinn can’t rely on strong veterans. It is going to rely on his draft picks and his coaching to get this team over the hump. Quinn is obviously confident in his abilities, and based on his draft success, it is warranted. However, another Duke Riley and Jalen Collins could keep the Falcons out of the playoffs.
There is so much at stake for Quinn in year five. For better or worse, his ability to turn around the defense while heavily reliant on rookies will ultimately define Quinn’s time with the team. After replacing the biggest parts of the coaching staff and passing on every veteran, all pressure falls on Quinn’s shoulders. He either rebuilds and retools the Falcons after a down 2018 season or fails to improve the team’s unbalanced, passing identity.
2019 can either be similar to Mike Smith’s 2014, or it can be the year Quinn gets the Falcons back on track. The former will likely be the end of Quinn’s with the team. The later could be years of deep playoff runs. It all depends on Quinn.