During Coach Dan Quinn’s tenure as Falcons head coach, the defense has had its ups and downs. That’s a small understatement, right?
In the 2019 season, the defense looked like two completely different units in the first and second half of the season with the same personnel. The main difference? Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich taking over the primary defensive play calling duties, which appeared to lead directly to a defensive uptick in the second half. The defense itself looks more confident and showed consistency during the uptick in play. Now that Coach Morris has taken the reins as the defensive coordinator for the 2020 season, what changes could we see?
The front office has done a decent job giving Grady Jarrett more help on the defensive line with the addition of Dante Fowler via free agency, Marlon Davidson via the the draft, and hopefully giving Jarrett and company more time to get home by adding a lengthy and athletic corner via the draft in AJ Terrell. Adding more talent will certainly help Coach Morris. Schematically, you can expect to see different coverages on the back end.
Where Morris differs is he loves to mix his coverages often, and he can get creative with them. We will still see some Cover 3, Cover 2 and Cover 1 man looks from Morris based on offensive personnel, but he likes to disguise his looks presnap. What’s also a plus with Coach Morris at DC is he really knows how to play to the strengths of his players. Much of the improvement you saw in the Falcons defense is players feeling comfortable in their roles and, as a result, executing at a higher level. Those who complained about Quinn’s defense being too vanilla might be pleased with what we see this year.
Given his background, pay close attention Morris and newly acquired defensive backs coach Joe Whitt, as they will have a huge focus on making the secondary a solid part of the overall defense. Part of being a sound defense is everyone knowing their role and being more consistent with technique and fundamentals. With a more disciplined back end, expect more opportunities for the defensive line to pin their ears back to affect the QB.
Now, Morris isn’t considered a hugely aggressive coach from a blitzing standpoint, but what he does provide going forward is an ability to coach up and put his players in the right position to succeed. There’s an old adage that the back end and the front end work together in regards to overall team defense.
With Coach Morris, what this defense should be is better from a technique standpoint, more confident and more mentally prepared on all levels as they were in the 2nd half of the season in 2019. As a result, the Falcons should field at least an average defense and have the potential to be more in 2020. That would be enough to let this team make some noise.