What coach Arthur Smith had to say about the Falcons

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

New Falcons coach Arthur Smith comments on the what's of most importance in building a team roster.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Here’s the full transcript of Falcons coach Arthur Smith from the “combine” press conference on Tuesday:

On where the team stand at safety: Moving Isaiah Oliver to safety? “We are in the beginning stages. As (general manager) Terry (Fontenot) and I are going through the roster, we are looking to add at any position. Ricardo Allen, he was a heck of player here. The circumstances of having to release him, we have all of the respect in the world for Rico. We are going to have to adapt. Isaiah is a guy that’s played inside, we feel good about him. But with a lot of our guys, we’re going to value versatility, but we are still in the early stages with how we are going to build this roster for 2021.”

On the roster evaluations for the offense: “I love the rapid-fire questions. We are still in the early stages. We feel good about some of the guys that have been here, that we have. There is a good young linemen up front that we are excited to work with. We are excited to work with some of the receivers of the outside as well. We are going to look to add at all times during the season. You never know when you can pick up players. Last year in Tennessee, we picked up Geoff Swaim, a tight end, in the middle of August, and he ended up being a big contributor down the stretch for us as we made that playoff run. We are going to always, it’s a constant evolution there. We feel good about some of the pieces that we have coming back. We are always continue to look to add value and depth.”

ExploreWhat new GM Terry Fontenot said of Falcons rebuild

On scouting virtually for free agency and the draft: “The one thing that helps is that we’ve been through almost a calendar year now of the (virtual) world. There is a lot of lessons learned through our draft process last year and even in our spring installations and stuff that we had to deal with in Tennessee early in the season. We found different ways. It was really cool during the hiring process with the staff. I mean, in years past, you might have flown somebody in. I may have gone to see somebody somewhere, but it allowed us to talk to them a lot of different candidates. We just tried to find lessons learned from the mistakes we may have made last year. I know for me, coaching things, what they learned and what translated (virtually). I feel very good. We made some hires (of people) I never met in person until they showed up here. I felt good about it and the way we went about it and vetted them. It’s like everybody, you have to adapt to the current times.”

On his roster evaluations, any surprises: “Let’s go with Younghoe Koo. Let’s just hope he doesn’t kick as many field goals next year. He had a very productive season. There are a lot of guys. Systematically, we won’t change. Some of it, you’re seeing what is going to fit for us going forward, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Then offensively, like I said, there are some good pieces here. Calvin Ridley had a heck of a year. Matt (Ryan) is still … he threw it at a high level. You’re excited about Chris Lindstrom. I could go on and on. So, there are some good pieces. We are going to ask those guys every day and whoever we bring in, you’ve got to earn your job. I’ve got to earn my job today. That’s going to be the same thing that we ask those guys, whether your going into Year 14 or Year 2. We feel good. There are some pieces, and we’ll continue to add.”

On defensive coordinator Dean Pees: “Dean’s body of work kind of speaks for itself. But is Dean is also somebody that is not set in his ways. Dean is very flexible. He’s adaptable. I feel really good about the entire staff, but on the defensive side we got some really good experience over there. Combining that with some young guys, it’s a good mix. Dean and I have a shared vision. We’ll play to our strengths of our team. We’ll be multiple. It was really beneficial for me, being a first-time head coach and I’m still going to call the plays, is that you have somebody with that kind of experience that you can lean on, especially on that side of the ball.”

On his philosophy on how a team should be built: “Obviously, you love to have depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I think that helps. If there is one thing that is 100% in the NFL, you’re going to have injuries. It’s hard. It’s hard when you lose (guys) up front. If you don’t have enough guys that can affect the quarterback. Obviously, we all saw the Super Bowl and we saw Tampa (Bay) was able to get after (Chiefs quarterback Patrick) Mahomes. That helps. But again, year-to-year, it changes. Your strengths may be at the skill positions. That’s what I mean playing to your strengths. Certain years we may have a lot of depth at tight end. You have to find ways to … there may be certain games in the season … you back to that COVID game (Tennessee) had against Buffalo on a Tuesday night and we only had four wide receivers up. So, you’re going to lean heavier on the tight ends or maybe you have multiple running back spots … You always love to have depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage in a perfect world. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it definitely helps.”

On if his philosophy matches with Fontenot’s: “It’s year to year that you build. I know there are narratives you want to get out there and people want to frame something, this is (rebuilding). The challenge is, and that’s why I love it, every year things change. You never just run it back. It’s a constant team building. I’ve really enjoyed just working with Terry. We have our beliefs. But I also like to think that we are also really good listeners. We’ve hired really good staff. When you hire really good people, you let them do their jobs. We listen. We facilitate. The thing about what Terry said, the things you are doing Year 1, you have to have as strong staff because we get pulled out of things. It’s very exciting. It’s been fun so far.”

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

New Falcons head coach Arthur Smith comments on the status of rookies and the evaluation process going forward.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

On DT Marlon Davidson and C Matt Hennessy: “Both of those will be given a clean slate. They were rookies. I think it was a really challenging year for a lot of rookies. That class, it was probably hardest for them when you look around the league. Obviously, some teams had more success than others, it’s so early to give your stamp on what this guy is going to be in Year 1 as a rookie. Some of these guys improve.

We are certainly are excited about working with them. I think they both will have the opportunity like everybody else, they’ll have a clean slate and to come earn a job. Certainly, rookie year doesn’t make or break a career.”

On quarterbacks coach Charles London and making sure that more minorities are in the pipeline to become coordinators and head coaches: “Charles and I shared an office in 2011 in Tennessee. It’s kind of like living in the dorm with somebody and you really get to know somebody. In coaching, you don’t really know somebody until you work with them, and if you share an office with them you feel like you really get to know them. Charles is a phenomenal coach. I think the biggest requirement for being a good coach is being a teacher. Charles is a heck of a teacher. I think looking at Charles in that role, it’s a role he wanted to expand and grow. That’s stifled a lot of growth around (the NFL), and I’m sensitive to it. Mike Vrabel gave me a shot coming from the tight end room. There had been precedent there and guys have become coordinators, but there are a lot of people that think you only have to come through the quarterbacks room. I had never coached a quarterback, and I was in the quarterback room as a coordinator. Same thing with Charles. Charles wants to grow. He’s a great teacher and he will (grow). He’ll do a great job. There is a lot of experience on this staff. Certainly, the same thing working with Ryan Tannehill, you work with a veteran quarterback and you get Matt Ryan. You work with a veteran quarterback and you kind of feed off each other. When you are coming from the running back room, I think there are a lot of misconceptions. You are heavily involved in the protections. That carries over right to the quarterback room. That’s critical on a third down, blitz pick-up. You’ve involved in the run scheme obviously with the tracks and the ball handling. I’m real excited that Charles is a part of our staff. It’s a huge a help. You want to expand people. You never want to stifle people’s growth. I think … you have to give somebody a shot. It’s a perfect situation for Charles, and I couldn’t be more excited that he’s here with us.”

On if he wants a veteran backup quarterback behind Matt Ryan: “There are just so many things at play. If this happens, we can add this guy here. As you go into the draft, you are looking to add everywhere. Obviously, we won’t go with just one quarterback into training camp. We’ll have multiple spots there. ... We’ll look for help anywhere and we’ll look to add. A lot that plays into the salary cap. Who’s available? Who you can sign? Who you can draft. It’s all in play.”

After Tennessee’s situation with Isaiah Wilson last season, how many people do you want evaluating players on these virtual meetings: “I think you learn from every experience. Just because that happened, there are so many factors and variables. Whether we were in (virtual) era or normal, there are things you can’t control. We are never going to be perfect, and I don’t think anybody is. I’m not going to have the perfect play-call every time. Terry is not going to have the perfect draft pick. Certainly, you try to minimize risks in certain areas, but there are lessons learned in everything we do. In terms of how we adapted our teaching methods. You adapt it to how you interview. That certainly helped me when we were interviewing coaches. But you learn from everything. There are always exceptions. I don’t really want to comment on something going on in Tennessee.”

How do you approach getting ready for OTAs or minicamps: “You just have to have contingency plans. So, here’s the calendar if we have a perfect situation, if we have the normal offseason. If we don’t, here’s Plan B and here is Plan C. That was the best lesson. … Everybody says that, and then you actually had to apply that to last year. We felt we did for the most part in Nashville. We’ll do the same thing here. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”

On the parallels from the 2011 lockout year to the current offseason: “There were a lot of things we learned from that year. The lockout year was very interesting. We were a new staff that year. It was a top-heavy quarterback draft at the time. You had Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder. I think all went within the top 15, give or take if I remember correctly, maybe I’m missing somebody. There are a lot of parallels. You have to do your due diligence. You can look back from year to year. It’s the hardest position I think in professional sports to play at a high level for a long time. That’s why you are seeing (the quarterback movement) right now. Just look at the last 10 years of the first-round quarterbacks. It’s not easy. There are a lot of things that factor into it. Yeah, that was a unique year. Lessons learned there. I think we ended up going 9-7. We actually came up here to Atlanta and lost in a relatively close game at the end. I think we came back, but yeah there was a lot of lessons applied about when you have to install things and (with the) evaluations.”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the pick’s in D. Led’s Mock Draft 1.0: Top five picks

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Ja’Marr Chase, (WR, LSU)

3. Dolphins: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Devonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

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