18 questions with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff

INDIANAPOLIS — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff spoke to the media at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday.

Here’s what he had to say:

Opening statement: Good afternoon. 2016 is upon us. We are really looking forward to jumping in with Coach (Dan) Quinn and building this team. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I’m embracing it. I know that Dan spoke yesterday about a lot of things. So, I’m looking forward to jumping on and following it up. So, let’s throw it out to questions.”

Q: Where are y’all at with the restricted free agent players, Schraeder, Worrilow and Stupar?

A: As we’ve mentioned in the past, we haven’t made any full-on decisions at this point as far as where we are with our negotiations. We are looking at it closely and we are continuing to look at what is potentially out there in free agency and working through all of the potential draft picks and that’s what will determine what our decisions will be. At this point we haven’t made any full-on decisions.

Q: What’s the timetable? Has to be done by March 7th. Is that correct?

A: Yes and the 7th is a few days away. We have a few days to continue to work through it. It’s honestly done with the ideal to continue to see these guys here at the combine and make an educated decision about where we are. That’s part of it to be able to juxtapose what is here in the combine, the draft and potentially in free agency.

Q: Can wide receiver Justin Hardy develop into a No. 2 receiver?

A: Justin is a very athletic and hard-nosed receiver for us. He fit in well in our scheme. He’s a guy who can separate well. He runs inside and out. He has the ability to be versatile that way for us. Again, we like the way that he’s developing. He’s evolving well. Again, he sets in with our real fiery and passionate approach to the game as Coach Quinn embodies. I think that’s good for us to have a receiver like that who’s going to be of that mindset.

Q: Is Mike Smith landing in the NFC South good news or bad news because he knows the NFC South?

A: No, Mike is a helluva football coach. You never want to face coaches with the ability like Mike has. We actually talked the other day. We have a good relationship. …with a guy like that in the league, it’s important that he’s coaching again. I’m really happy for him.

Q: When you look at kids from small schools what do you want to both on tape and when you talk to them?

A: From smaller schools, it gives us an opportunity to really drill down and asked them the questions that we think are appropriate. Until we really see them side by side against the talent from bigger schools and bigger programs, that’s when we truly determine what we feel they are, as far as talent. As far as the questions, as far as the interviews, nothing really different than what we would ask a big school guy. We do a lot of work on that. One of our beliefs is that it’s really important for a small-school guy s to dominate in his school, in his system, in his division and in his league. That always the sort of on-going theme for us as evaluators. They have to stand out where they are. We love to see them again side by side at All-Star games. Some of them are blessed enough to be there and others are not. That’s when we truly really get a feel for how they are and how they stack up against other talent in the collegiate ranks.

Q: What is it like for you to see guys like John Robinson and Bob Quinn get general manager jobs?

A: Again, I’m really happy for those guys. They are about 10 years behind me. We all worked together and spent a lot of great time talking about football in a system like we were in in New England. We learned a lot there. I’m really happy for them. They are both really dedicated football men. They have a really good idea about what it takes to win. I have no doubt in my mind that they are going to do a heck of a job.

Q: Did you ever think they would be able to rise to this level one day?

A: Yes, I did. It’s amazing what you see when you see these guys working side by side with them, you just realize that some guys have and eye, some guys have ability not only form an evaluation standpoint, but from an assessment standpoint. They can talk about the team. Compare the team. Both of those guys have a really good grasp for doing that.

Q: What is it about the Patriots program that prepares guys to become general managers?

A: I think one of the things that everybody learns when they go in to the Patriots Paradigm, is that there was no on the fence. You had to come in with an opinion. You had to come in with a strong opinion. You had to do your work. Coach (Bill) Belichick and Scott (Pioli) at that time, you weren’t to just sort of fly under the radar and suggest that someone is replacing or is a backup in the league. You had to truly hone in and compare to the other talent on your football team. You had to be very specific. We talked about it all the time, system-specific. That’s more than just for the scheme, but it’s also system-specific for the organization.

Q: Is this a great draft for defensive tackles?

A: The fronts, this is a strong draft on both fronts. On both O and D line. I think that’s a good thing for teams that are ostensible looking for O line, D Line. That’s a good thing.

Q: What role has Devonta (Freeman) carved out for himself in the offense?

A: Devonta did a really nice job for us. I think Tevin (Coleman) came in and we wanted the mix of running backs with different styles. We always believe that’s important in this league. It’s a sense of a change of pace. They both come to the table with something very different in their skill set. Tevin has a lot of speed and a lot of natural ability. My feeling is that he’ll continue to mature and into this season. Again, we are expecting big things for him teaming with Devonta. I think that’s a really nice tandem.

Q: How much are the drills for the combine helpful?

A: I’m a big believer in the combine on so many levels. There are many reasons that we have the combine from a medical and from our interview standpoint. I know that people comment out there that it’s about the people …it’s like basketball on grass and that they are just in shorts. I’m a big believer in movement and we all know in this league, it’s a matchup league. You have to be able to run. You have to be able to move. You have to be able to have fluidity in your movement. You have to be athletic. It doesn’t matter what position you play. There has to be an element of athleticism. You get a chance to see athleticism out here and you’re able to compare it to other receivers running around, other line backers dropping, setting and breaking on the ball. I think there is a definite benefit here.

Q: How much of a factor is speed?

A: Speed, for coach Quinn, is a big thing. We know that from the defensive side. We believe it on the offensive side as well. It doesn’t necessarily change the way that we evaluate. What it does is, it forces us to really hone in on the true speed of the players. The true quickness and explosiveness. That’s a big thing for Dan. That’s a big thing for us as a scouting staff and as a co-team builder to know exactly what we are looking forward. There are certain nuances of his defenses and the offense that we need to really hone in on and understand how important it is for our players to be explosive.

Q: How’s Devin Hester recovering?

A: He’s doing very well. He’s a focused rehab type of guy. I have no doubt that he’ll continue to focus on that.

Q: What are some of the challenges that the new general managers will face?

A: I think the biggest things for new general managers is to make sure that have a really, really direct and communicative relationship with their head coach. It’s about both of those guys coming from a system where they very understanding of how it important it is to know the scheme, to know exactly what the coach is looking for. That gets lost sometimes. And they understand that. Coach Belichick was very much like that with us on those staffs. It’s very important to make sure that they know the nuances of the scheme so that they can bring the best players to the coaching staff.

Q: How do you feel the offensive line played last season?

A: They made strides for sure. I thought we had some good football players on that side of the front. I think they helped protect. They had to adapt to a new scheme, which was important for them to settle in. They are an athletic group. They move well. That’s important in the outside-zone scheme. I thought, all in all, I thought they did a solid job and will continue to improve and evolve. Again, it’s important to make sure that they work in the system and with (quarterback) Matt (Ryan) and the rest of our offense so that they have to continue to grow. They are on their way to doing a good job.

Q: Are you pleased with the development of (left tackle) Jake Matthews?

A: We like Jake a lot. He has the ability to play left tackle in this league and slide well. He has the athleticism, the quick and hands. He’s a very smart football player. He dealt with some issues last year. Injury-related. He’s tough and worked through them. We saw that. We’re excited about his next steps as well.

Q: In that first draft, is there some advantages to not having a track record? Maybe they are less predictable?

A: Or you referring to John Robinson and bob Quinn as new GMs?

Q: Yes.

A: I don’t know how much of a benefit there was. One of the things I always said was that it’s really important to know who you are dealing with on the other teams. When we are talking about advice, it’s so important to make sure that you have a good and trusting relationship with other general managers in this league. If you are trying to pull off trades or if you are trying to work movement (in the draft). I think that’s very important for them.

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