Falcons have three new coaches at different levels of the defense

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez makes a reception and turns up field for yardage past Buccaneers linebacker Barrett Ruud.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez makes a reception and turns up field for yardage past Buccaneers linebacker Barrett Ruud.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Recently hired Falcons inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud remembers chasing around Falcons quarterbacks Michael Vick, Joey Harrington and mostly Matt Ryan when Ruud played for Tampa Bay.

“Way back when, in the old (Georgia Dome),” said Ruud, who played with the Bucs from 2005-10.

He’s looking forward to getting to work with the Falcons after coaching in the college ranks at Nebraska and Central Florida for nine seasons, from 2014-22.

“I can’t say I know many NFL teams extremely well, but being in the NFC South,” Ruud said. “I was here in Atlanta playing a lot. I remember those battles in the old dome. The fans here were always fantastic so being able to come to an organization like this, that was equally as exciting of an opportunity for me.”

The new coaches have been around for the past 48 hours and are just getting acclimated.

“You’ve got to go through a little bit of a process,” Ruud said. “That’s why everybody does it, they want to be on the grass with their guys. They don’t want to be sitting in their office for too long. It’s still going to be fun to get out there.”

Ruud has the inside linebackers, while Jay Rodgers will coach the defensive line and Justin Hood will coach the secondary.

“Extremely excited for me, I’ve known (Falcons coach) Raheem (Morris) for a long time,” Ruud said. “No. 1, to get a chance to go work for him, I was absolutely thrilled because I know what kind of coach he is. What kind of person he is.”

Like most defensive-oriented coaches, Morris wants the Falcons to play fast and physical. No one has ever said they want to play slow and soft.

“It’s going to be fun for me because both Raheem and (defensive coordinator) Jimmy (Lake) have branched out schematically since I was with them in Tampa Bay,” Ruud said. “Raheem has done some different things with the Rams. Jimmy had done some different things at UW, Washington. But the core beliefs remain the same.

“The effort players are going to play with. The technique, the detail and the fundamentals. That’s what hasn’t changed. There is going to be some new schematics. Then we also know what (the Falcons) had last year here in Atlanta. They played really good defense last year (except for three of the final five games when they gave up 29, 37 and 48 points to the Bucs, Bears and Saints. There was also the 9-7 loss to the Panthers and the 29-10 win over the Colts.)”

Ruud, 40, played at Nebraska and was a second-round pick by the Bucs in 2005.

“I’m really excited to kind of blend that all together with this new staff,” Ruud said. “That’s going to be a fun time.”

Ruud is familiar with Falcons inside linebackers Kaden Elliss, Nate Landman and Troy Andersen.

“I think they all have got unique skill sets,” Ruud said. “I think they complement each other very well. Troy, unfortunately, I think got hurt early in the year, so he didn’t get a ton of reps throughout the year. I’m excited about the group.

Ruud knows there will be a transition to coaching in the NFL.

“No. 1, I haven’t made one phone call to recruit since I’ve been here,” Ruud said. “That’s kind of nice. There is no portal. I don’t have to take any photos that I know of. So, that part is really nice.”

Ruud knows there are other aspects to the transition, too.

“For example, in college you have real limited meeting time,” Ruud said. “You might have 20 minutes before a practice to do an installation. You feel like an auctioneer at times trying to rattle off all of the information. Whereas you get a full day in the NFL. You get more time to spend with your guys.”

Having also played in the league, Ruud believes he’ll be just fine.

“At the same time, coaching is coaching,” Ruud said. “You got to have rules that let them play fast. You’ve got to have fundamentals. You have to have details. It will be nice to have more time with your players and not having to do as much recruiting.”

Rodgers, who came over from the Chargers, is looking forward to working defensive end Zach Harrison.

“I’ve heard a lot of really good things about him,” said Rodgers, who won the John Teerlinck Award (top defensive line coach) in 2018. “He did some good things here last year. So, my job is try to see what we can to do to be the most productive that he could possibly be. That’s what I plan on doing, studying him. What he does well. "

Hood was a defensive quality-control assistant with the Packers from 2021-23.

“You are talking about coach Morris being a secondary guy, Jimmy being a secondary guy, (assistant head coach/defense) Jerry Gray being a secondary guy and myself,” Hood said. “We won’t be lacking in coaches back there.”