Falcons’ defensive players getting comfortable with multiple schemes

Falcons cornerback Fabian Moreau, a free agent addition this offseason, talks about adjusting to the team's scheme and earning a roster spot.

With a day left in the mandatory minicamp and three more OTA practices next week, the Falcons’ new defensive scheme is starting to take shape.

ExplorePhotos: The Falcons at minicamp Wednesday

“Defense, those guys are coming along,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday. “A lot of good communication.”

The goal over the offseason has been to install and then learn the multiple alignments that new defensive coordinator Dean Pees is implementing.

“We’re getting a lot of individual development down there with (defensive line coach) Gary (Emanuel) and (outside linebackers coach) Ted (Monachino),” Smith said. “When we go to these team settings, as we’re putting in our schemes, there has been good communication.”

The hard evaluations will come during training camp and when the Falcons hold joint practices with the Dolphins before their second exhibition game.

“So, looking forward, really, to training camp, especially with the interior guys,” Smith said.

In recent days, players on the defensive line, linebacker group and in the secondary have discussed the defense.

Defensive end Steven Means, who’s been with a few of the Falcons’ new coaches in Baltimore and Philadelphia, believes things are going well.

“I know this year, it’s going to be real different,” Means said. “There are a lot of different nuances.”

Means explained how the defense will adjust to keep offenses off-balance.

“If you look at it like a game period,” Means said. “Say, you throw something at a team one series, and then they try to go and adjust. Dean has so many different defenses, that he can throw a whole separate package at you the next series.”

While the offense is trying to adjust to the last package, the Falcons throw out something different.

“It’s not as complex (as it sounds), but you definitely have to be in your playbook,” Means said. “It’s going to be a lot of different. ... It’s going to be multiple.”

Second-year linebacker Mykal Walker is enjoying the offseason after not having one as a rookie. Walker went on to play in all 16 games and made six starts. Drafted in the fourth round (119th overall) out of Fresno State, Walker played 385 defensive snaps (36%) and made 45 tackles with a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

“I think what anybody in this league would need is confidence,” Walker said. “It boosted my confidence a lot coming from last year, and I’m just ready to get on this team, show what I can do and prove to this coaching staff that I can go out there and make plays.”

Walker is proud of his rookie showing with no offseason programs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it was a huge deal to go out there with no camps and be able to play,” Walker said. “Now, I’m coming in here with a foot in the door. I think that’s going to be huge for me. I’m looking forward to it.”

With an offseason, Walker hopes to improve his understanding of the game and how to read plays faster.

“I think this playbook kind of complements what we do out here,” Walker said. “We run a lot. We run fast. This defense gives us that freedom to run around and make plays.”

Walker is picking up the defensive scheme well.

“I think just being here every day with this new coaching staff and players, I’m starting to get my own little spin on things,” Walker said. “I’m starting to see things faster and break on the ball a little better.”

He had an interception in practice Wednesday.

“Each day you get a little bit closer,” Walker said. “(Linebackers) coach (Frank) Bush always says that you get one percent better. We were close to the ball, closer to the ball, and then (Wednesday) was a day for the defense to come up with a couple of them. Just being able to go against our offense and being to go against those guys every single day is making us better.”

Walker said that Pees is fitting the schemes to the skills of the players on hand.

“Our coaches do a really good job of setting things up for us,” Walker said. “Even our defensive coordinator (will say) we didn’t run this at Tennessee, but we ran this back with the Ravens. I think that is something where he sees what we have.”

In the secondary, cornerback Fabian Moreau played four seasons with the Washington Football Team before he signed with the Falcons in free agency. He has played in 60 NFL games and made 18 starts.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of plays,” Moreau said. “Just getting everything down. Getting use to everything. Getting our communication right. Our alignments right.”

Moreau, who’s been working mostly at right cornerback, is trying to blend in with his new team.

They know what’s expected of them, and they put that effort in every day,” Moreau said of the younger players. “It’s just leaning on guys and letting them know what I see, what they may see. How they fit here. How this should look and just helping them wherever I can.”

Moreau has been impressed with second-year cornerback A.J. Terrell.

“Well, he’s far advanced in his mental game already,” Moreau said. “He’s a hell of a player; he’s a hell of an athlete. He’s a dog out there. I love seeing that. I love playing with him.”

They exchange information to help them in the new defense.

“I love just giving my tips and seeing his tips as well,” Moreau said. “That’s helping me get better as we are bouncing it back and forth.”

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