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Dan Quinn says Falcons defense still has work to do with on-field communication

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Quinn saw some good things from that unit on Thursday night, and also saw plenty of room for improvement.

Denver Broncos v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Dan Quinn is a firm believer in the benefit of communication on defense. That’s been a point of emphasis for the Falcons this training camp, and based on what Quinn saw from the team during the Hall of Fame Game, the team has a way to go.

“I would say, like most things, some at times to a level that we want, and some not,” Quinn said Monday.

Quinn’s emphasis on the defensive communication has been consistent throughout camp. He went into detail on the reasoning behind it on Day 2.

“Defensively, we made a big push on communications, and a lot of it at the line of scrimmage prior to — and some of the very best team defenses play that way, where communication at the line — linebacker to linebacker, d-line to linebacker, and on and on down the line,” Quinn said. “I ended up showing a couple of mic’d up portions (from Day 1) cut up to hear what it sounded like when it was great communication, and then I played some that were silent.”

Quinn used the same approach following the Hall of Fame Game to highlight the ways the communication worked well, and the ways it needs to improve.

“One of the fun byproducts to a TV game, I get to hear it. So I get all the clips, and we put those on the coaching clips, in behind them so I can hear a lot of that communication,” Quinn said. “If a player’s mic’d up, I want that information.”

During practice, the communication has been hitting the right notes. The chatter has been loud as hell and pretty much constant regardless of whether it’s the first, second, or third-and-beyond team on the field. The defense has been playing with a lot of intensity. Keanu Neal told me last week that those things are related.

“Most definitely,” Neal said.

Everybody has to step up on defense to get to the point where effective communication is second nature.

“It’s progressed a lot. A lot of guys, including myself, are stepping up and talking more,” Neal said. “The communication piece has been important as far as going through training camp and everything, so we’ve really been focusing on that. It’s going really well.”

Quinn is even breaking down the defensive communication in team meetings.

“You’ve heard me talk about communication — we’ve had more guys mic’d up,” Quinn said after Tuesday’s practice. “They’re going to be in the meeting room today — what was the communication? What did it sound like? And so we’re kind of going through each of the markers.”

When the team takes on the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, that communication is one of the things Quinn will be watching for, just like he did in the Hall of Fame Game. Quinn said Jermaine Grace stood out in that one.

“Sometimes I can tell with hand signals — like Jermaine Grace had some really good ones at a time, we tried to point that out to the team,” Quinn said. “And then another time we didn’t have the correct communication to execute the call so well. So I pointed it out as quick as I could when we reviewed the game. So I would say we still have work to do, but the guys are working at it hard.”

You may be thinking this is just coachspeak; a new buzzword for this season. Quinn doesn’t see it that way.

“I know, OK, coaches working on communication, big deal,” Quinn said. “I’m going to try and take it as far as I can so we can get to the level where we’re calling it out at the line of scrimmage and making the checks and the words that’s so intense and quick and on it — that’s when you get to the best team defense, not 11 ones, but 11 as one.”