The NFL’s annual league meetings are underway in Arizona this week. There are a bunch of interesting topics under discussion, including the possibility of making DPI (and other non-reviewable penalties) either reviewable or able to be challenged. While we wait to hear the outcome on those topics, we also got some interesting tidbits on Tuesday morning in the form of interviews with Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn.
Quinn had a lot of informative things to say, including reaffirming that Atlanta is not moving away from the zone blocking scheme. Many fans have speculated that the addition of James Carpenter and Jamon Brown would lead to the team converting the running attack to a power scheme, but that is not the case. I’d expect the Falcons to utilize more inside zone concepts with their greater size on the interior (the “tweaks” that Quinn alluded to), but outside zone will still factor heavily into their offensive gameplan.
Dan Quinn also gave us a possible clue into the team’s strategy heading into free agency and the draft.
Dan Quinn said adding depth at strong safety, defensive end and cornerback is a focus for them right now. #Falcons— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) March 26, 2019
While the need at EDGE is rather obvious with the Falcons only having three on the roster at this point (Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley, and Steven Means), the other two positions were a little more of a surprise. The CB group lost three members this offseason in Robert Alford, Brian Poole, and special teams ace Justin Bethel—so it makes sense that the Falcons would look to add depth there. Keanu Neal is a great starter at SS, but his injury absence in 2018 exposed a lack of ideal depth with Jordan Richards failing in a big way.
To me, EDGE is clearly the biggest remaining need on the team. We don’t know what we’re going to get from Beasley in 2019—though I expect it to be more similar to 2015, 2017, and 2018 than 2016—and although Takk still has plenty of room to grow and Steven Means is a capable rotational option, at least 1-2 more quality options need to be added just to fill out the roster. If the Falcons miss out on Ed Oliver, I’d expect their second choice to be a top EDGE like Brian Burns or Montez Sweat.
CB is a little more nuanced, with Atlanta seemingly having their three starters locked in—Desmond Trufant and Isaiah Oliver on the outside with Damontae Kazee allegedly taking over the slot. Behind them, however, is a quality option in Blidi Wreh-Wilson but not much else. I’d expect the Falcons to target a developmental outside player like Isaiah Johnson on Day 2 or a slot specialist like Mark Fields or Jimmy Moreland on Day 3.
I’m not sure I agree with the need for depth at SS, specifically. Jordan Richards played very poorly, but once Sharrod Neasman took over the job things improved drastically. I think Neasman is fine as Neal’s backup going into 2019. However, if Kazee is truly switching back to CB this season, the team needs another FS to backup Ricardo Allen. I think Atlanta may be getting more “versatile” with their safety prospects, so a player that can serve as depth at both safety spots—like Miami’s Sheldrick Redwine or Boston College’s Will Harris—could be a perfect fit.
It’s also worth mentioning that Quinn didn’t clarify whether this focus would be in the draft or in free agency, but we can probably assume he’s mostly talking about the draft. Atlanta has very little cap space remaining, so outside of a relatively low cost signing on the DL (fingers crossed for Adrian Clayborn), I’d expect these moves to come either via draft selections or UDFAs.
It just so happens that I had the Falcons taking an EDGE, CB, and SS in my most recent mock draft, so check it out if you haven’t already. What do you think about Quinn’s focus on SS, EDGE, and CB? Who are some prospects at those positions that you like for the Falcons?