Falcons coach Dan Quinn and his staff have been experimenting with how they want to call games.
Through the first two games, they’ve rotated coordinators from the sidelines to upstairs in a coaching booth.
Against the Steelers, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel was upstairs while offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian operated from the field.
Manuel and Sarkisian are both first-time NFL coordinators and Quinn wants to make sure they are comfortable with the best spot to carry out their duties.
When the Falcons (0-2) face Arizona (1-2) on Saturday at the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Quinn believes the coordinators will switch again, with Sarkisian returning upstairs and Manuel to the field.
“That was a good assessment for us to go through,” Quinn said on Monday. “Both of them were in a new spot. I haven’t addressed it with them, but for Saturday, I’d like to discuss it with them and get their input on it as well.”
Quinn felt play-calling to the players flowed well.
“Both of them were able to get the information to the guys completely and clearly,” Quinn said. “I wanted them to have the experience and feel it.” I sense that this next week we’ll go back to doing it like we did on the first week with Marquand on the field and Sark upstairs. As I’m heading into the week, without talking to them, that’s where I’m going.”
With the NFL now essentially a matchup game, defense and offenses switch personnel from play to play, most times based on down and distance.
The Falcons were rolling in four and five players on each play on defense at times last season. The offense doesn’t normally switch out linemen, but the combination of running backs, tight ends and wide receivers can vary.
Quinn felt the Falcons were able to make all of their personnel moves on Sunday.
“It was (fluid),” Quinn said. “The personnel groupings that we were calling in both offensively and defensively, that part was communicated well. We had a couple that felt like it got close down (on the clock) offensively.
“I don’t know if it was a result of changing a play or not. Past that, I thought the offense did a good job of getting in and out of groups and of getting their rhythm.”
If a team sends in a three-wide receiver formation, Quinn likes to match with an extra defensive back and avoid getting caught with a linebacker covering a wide receiver.
“We like changing personnel groups, base to nickel and back and forth, so I really felt that in the first half,” Quinn said. “The offense had good intent coming out and changing groups and making calls at the line.”
Other returning offensive coaches — Raheem Morris (receivers), Chris Morgan (offensive line), Wade Harman (tight ends) and Keith Carter (running backs) — helped to bridge some things with Sarkisian, cuing him on how the NFL’s top scoring offense operated last season.
Once Sarkisian was up to speed, he used his communications skills to win over the players.
“He made it a point to try to get that connection going with all of the players, not just the quarterbacks on the team,” Quinn said. “That part really comes through with him. He communicates with the guys.”
That connection doesn’t happen overnight. But he’s put in the time to make sure that everybody is really clear on the style and attitude that we like to play with.”
Quinn noted that, whether if Sarkisan ends up upstairs or on the field, the Falcons are holding back some fireworks for the season.
“We have plenty things that we are working on to try to improve,” Quinn said. “We are not showing everything that will be used in the regular season. Right now, it’s about timing and the urgency that we play with without tons of the game plan portions going in.
“In terms of Sark’s role with the offense, he’s off to a great start. You can tell the leadership that he has with staff and the players. He’s off to a really good start here.”
Manuel and Quinn were not happy with how the backups played run defense against the Steelers. They often over-pursued and got knocked out of their lanes on some nice counter runs by Pittsburgh running back James Connor, who rushed for 98 yards.
“Can’t wait to get back to work on it,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t a question of not being physical enough or missing tackles. It was a real factor in not having our fits correct.
“On some of those, we just lost leverage on a play or on a block. … When you lose that leverage, that’s when the explosive plays happen.”
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