When Dan Quinn took over the Falcons in 2015, fans mostly knew what kind of defense he would be looking to install in Atlanta. He featured a 4-3 scheme that heavily used zone coverage and an attacking style that would fly to the ball and try to force turnovers. In that time, Quinn has had a good bit of success in drafting defensive talent, even as the defenses under him have been inconsistent.
That’s why his recent interview with 92.9 The Game (covered by the AJC) has made a few eyebrows rise. According to Quinn, the team is playing around with 3-4 looks this offseason and will continue to evaluate through training camp. Additionally, it looks like Takkarist McKinley is a key player they’re looking at to rush as a 3-4 linebacker if they deploy that look through the season.
“He’s lighter,” Quinn said. “He’s faster. He’s fitter to go all out. He’s got that type of motor to do that.”
Much has been made of Takk and the need for him to take a big step forward this year. It will be his third year in the league — a key milestone for pass rushers — and many fans are concerned he’ll end up like Vic Beasley, a player with promise undelivered. The move to a stand-up role may serve McKinley well, and Quinn has already seen him take advantage of it this offseason.
It should be noted that the “4-3” that Quinn has deployed shares traits with 3-4 defensive alignments. Using “pure” 3-4 looks is not that much of a stretch, even if it draws attention during the offseason. How much they use that look will remain to be seen.
That said, it’s interesting to see Quinn make note of this change and to specifically highlight McKinley as someone they think can thrive in it. It can be seen as a positive sign that Quinn is willing to change up his defensive alignment to better match the personnel on the roster.
If the Falcons defense is going to have a good year, they’re going to need far more from the pass rush. If showing more 3-4 looks will get them there, then this is a move we should all applaud.