Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian discussed the status of the offense headed into the season opener against the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m. Sunday at Soldier Field.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Can you preview where you are as you head into the first game of the season?
A: I think the preparation has gone really well. (Head coach) Dan (Quinn) has been really committed to the process of treating this … you like having the extra time to prepare, but yet there is the routine of a normal week that we really enjoy. We are right on track where we want to be getting off a Thursday practice and heading into Friday. I feel good about where we are at. I thought we had a good day today.
Q: Where are you all with trying to add to what was the league’s top scoring offense?
A: I think we are in a good spot. I didn’t come in here and try to reinvent the wheel. These guys were a fantastic offense a year ago. Really well coached. Really good players. Guys playing at a high level. I was really trying to dig into some of the specifics and certain scenarios and finding some areas where maybe we could improve some things or maybe do things slightly different that could enhance what we did. I really think, as a staff, we put our emphasis there and it’s shown. I think the players have really brought in to get one percent better each day we’ve taken the field. I think that’s shown as well.
Q: Are you comfortable with where Julio (Jones) is?
A: I feel very good. I think the last couple, two and half weeks, he’s practiced very well. He’s running well. The intermediate stuff, the deep stuff, the short game stuff, he’s comfortable with his spots on the field. He’s where he needs to be and most importantly his rapport with Matt (Ryan) is where it needs to be at this point. I feel good about that.
Q: How’s Devonta (Freeman) doing? How do you plan to manage the split at running back?
A: Free has come in to practice really well for a guy who’s been out for almost two weeks. At one point there with some personal stuff and then the (concussion) protocol. He came back on fire. He’s practiced really well. Tevin (Coleman) and Free are such a good one-two punch. They make each other better a, in practice and b, in games where one guy doesn’t have to be in the whole time. We are excited to have them both go. I think, for me, this game is exciting because we get all of our guys out there, really for the first time going together. To be calling plays and managing all of that stuff is exciting for me.
Q: How are you nerves going into the season?
A: I think my nerves are fine. I’ve been in some pretty big games in my career. Obviously, I’m excited. What a cool opportunity to be with these guys. It’s been a great offseason. It’s been a great training camp. We continue to work and grow together. So, I’m excited to go out, like I said, with all these guys and our staff. We are a very tight knit group … to go out and perform … to go out and do what we love to do. All of the excitement is there. I don’t think the nerves are quite there. Obviously, I have a great deal of respect for Chicago, coach (John) Fox and coach (Vince) Fangio. They do a tremendous job of defense so it’s a heck of a challenge for us. But I’m excited for the challenge more than anything.
Q: Do you really enjoy calling plays from the sidelines?
A: Yeah, I do. I’ve called plays from the sidelines my whole career. I went up for the first (exhibition) season game against Miami to get that perspective. I wanted to see what that was like. I enjoyed it, but there was definitely a disconnect for me. I’m just into feeling the emotion of the quarterback, the players and the flow of the team. I think that kind of is a little bit of fuel for me and how I like to call it to some degree. I love the interaction. I love the dialogue. I love the fact that we’re on the same page and thinking what we are thinking. If we are not, I can explain it and really be clear. He can explain to me what he’s seeing. It’s like anything, when you are over the phone having a discussion sometimes it’s not as clear when that discussion is face to face. I really value that interaction. I know that it’s important for me in calling plays.
Q: How has (wide receiver) Taylor Gabriel been doing in practice?
A: I think he’s steadily improve. Mentally, he’s kind of getting his legs back under him, feeling comfortable, really opening up and going. I feel like his best two days were the last couple of days. Again, that’s great for us. He’s on that upward trend. He’s another great option for us and a real weapon that we want to make sure that he’s integral to what we are doing on Sunday.”
Q: Have you thought about this opportunity?
A: I’m humbled and honored … that everybody had the trust in me to come in here and do this job…my job is to give the best Steve Sarkisian that I could every day that I come to work.