Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, back during the 2019 season, when it was safe to leave his house. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Dimitroff not shying away from ‘high expectations’ 

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff had plenty of positive things to say about the team and the upcoming season in a recent podcast with the team’s website. 

“I feel like we’ve definitely gotten better,” Dimitroff said on the Bird Noise podcast with Matt Tabeek on Thursday. “Of course, we’ve lost some very good football players.”

The key losses were tight end Austin Hooper (two Pro Bowls), running back Devonta Freeman (two Pro Bowls), defensive end Vic Beasley (one Pro bowl) and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (leading tackler the past two seasons.) 

“I felt that we were very thoughtful, mindful and thorough with how we filled the gaps that we were left with,” said Dimitroff, who hasn’t spoken to the Atlanta media since the end of the NFL draft. “That is important for me. I believe our head coach believes that and our coaching staff is very encouraged with what they’ve been working with during the virtual classrooms and such.”

The Falcons replaced Hooper with Hayden Hurst, who was acquired in a trade with Baltimore. Freeman was replaced by the signing of Todd Gurley in free agency and Dante Fowler was signed in free agency to replace Beasley.

The Falcons drafted linebacker Mykal Walker in the fourth round and have Foyesade Oluokun on the roster to replace Campbell. 

“I do believe this is a very talented football team,” Dimitroff said. “We need to continue to grow together as a football team. We need to continue to be consistent and work through things together.”

Free agency was the key heading into the draft. 

“I think we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish and needed to accomplish in free agency,” Dimitroff said. “It was something that I was encouraged by as well. It gave us a bigger opportunity in the draft because we were able to acquire a rush end, as well as a tight end, as well as a running back that (will) be really important, significant contributors for us. It allowed to pull back a little bit more, be more creative and be open in the draft. That was really, really big for us.”

Dimitroff believes how fast the team matures will be key as they’ll be counting on younger players, including first-round pick cornerback A.J. Terrell, second-round pick defensive tackle Marlon Davidson and third-round pick guard/center Matt Hennessy. 

“You know, maturity is not the chronological age of your football team,” Dimitroff said. “It’s continuity. We have our coaching staff back together which I think is going to be really important for our maturity and consistency and our regular accountability. Those are really, really important elements about our football team and thus, continuing to be successful.”

The Falcons are trying to rebound from back-to-back 7-9 seasons. Dimitroff believes that coach Dan Quinn ran a successful virtual offseason program despite the team missing organized team activities and rookie minicamps because of the coronavirus pandemic.   

“Dan has done a helluva a job in this offseason, his coaching staff as well,” Dimitroff said. “As you can imagine, there is not a more competitive or directed guy than Dan. He does it with a smile and an upbeat attitude. Which I love. It’s not contrived. It’s authentic and those guys appreciate it.”

Dimitroff believes the Falcons can bounce back in 2020. 

“I believe that we are in a really good spot,” Dimitroff said. “Of course ... there are high expectations coming into this season. Everyone knows that. No one is shying away from that. Dan and myself included.”

Dimitroff is not looking too far down the road on if the season will go on as planned.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the  NFL and major US college football programs probably must look at a "bubble" format to conduct a season because of  the global coronavirus pandemic in a recent interview with CNN. 

“It would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Fauci told CNN.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills has not embraced the “bubble” concept.

“You can get carried away with what ifs,” Dimitroff said. “We have a very intelligent organization, football ops side and business side. 

“We’ll make sure that we have things in order….we can go round and round about all of the what ifs, including now that Tom Brady is in our division. Of course, we’ll look at it.

“Of course, we’ll monitor it all. But it’s not going to steer and direct us to a spot where… we are just darting around everywhere with no real direction. We have a lot of direction here and that’s set from the very top of this organization and that’s really, really important for us.”

The Falcons plan to stay flexible. 

“We have to make sure that we are preparing properly so that when things start flying, we’re ready,” Dimitroff said. 

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