Steve Sarkisian plans to maintain elite offense

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian of the Alabama Crimson Tide speaks to the media during the College Football Playoff National Championship Media Day on January 7, 2017 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

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Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian of the Alabama Crimson Tide speaks to the media during the College Football Playoff National Championship Media Day on January 7, 2017 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian had a special welcoming committee on his first day on the job.

“I walked in the building, and Matt Ryan was waiting for me,” Sarkisian said Wednesday. “We had lunch together.”

The league’s reigning MVP was waiting for his new boss, who was given the keys to the NFL’s top scoring attack after Kyle Shanahan left to become the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach.

Sarkisian, on his recovery from a bout with alcoholism and fresh off a brief stint at Alabama, was impressed.

“That type of commitment to the success of the organization has been one that has been welcoming to me,” said Sarkisian, a former college head coach at Washington and USC. “It’s really been something to where I just want to uphold what’s been done before. I want to find little ways to make it better. How can we improve? That’s why I’m here.”

On the way to the NFC championship, the Falcons led the NFL in yards per play (6.69), yards per passing play (8.23) and scoring (33.8 points per game). The Falcons ranked second in yards per game (415.8).

So, Sarkisian, who has one season of experience in the NFL as quarterbacks coach with Oakland in 2004, has a simple task. He has to keep offensive at elite status.

He plans to put his touches on the offense, but there won’t be a major overhaul.

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Falcons coordinator Steve Sarkisian on taking over the NFL's top scoring offense with All-Pros Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Alex Mack. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

“I don’t know if it’s going to be glaring,” Sarkisian said. “I think it’s going to be subtleties that the players understand. Little things that maybe I emphasize that weren’t emphasized before. Things that I think are important.

“How we marry things together whether if it’s in the run game, the pass game or formationally with personnel groupings.”

Sarkisian is a proponent of the outside zone scheme that Shanahan installed two seasons ago and doesn’t see the need to tinker much.”

Since that first meeting, Sarkisian and Ryan have worked on their football relationship.

“Matt is a very competitive human being at anything,” Sarkisian said. “It doesn’t matter if we are shooting hoops at the front of the room in the team meeting room. He’s a competitive guy.”

He’s also noticed that Ryan is humble.

“For a guy who’s had so much success, his willingness and humbleness to want to be coached,” Sarkisian said. “He has, in his mind, he hasn’t made it. It’s, ‘how do I get better? What do I need to work on?’ Coming out that first meeting, he really wanted me to dig into his game overall from a year ago and see where he could improve.

“That just speaks volumes to what type of player he is, the type of teammate and the type of leader. Anybody that walks in the building and you see that guy working as hard as he works, that’s contagious. I think you see that amongst everybody in the organization.”

Although, All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones is out recovering from foot surgery, Sarkisian will try to figure how to maximize his role in the offense, especially inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.

Jones automatically draws a double-team in the red zone.

“There are so many unique coverages that roll his way that when we don’t get that, let’s make sure he’s one of the primary receivers on that play because (he’s) such a matchup for anybody one-on-one,” Sarkisian said.

After review the attack, Sarkisian was drawn to the running back position, which was shared by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman last season.

“We have two really electric tailbacks,” Sarkisian said. “They are bad matchups (for) defenses.”

He wants to make sure that Freeman and Coleman are in the best situations to succeed.

“Whether if it’s separately on the field or being on the field together,” Sarkisian said. “I think that was one key, whether if it’s in the run game or pass game, just to ensure those things.

“Really looking at the efficiency and the things they did well and trying to dig into can we even improve on that. Can we get better on third down? Can we get better in the red zone? Is there a way to get Julio more touches in the red zone and finding those matchups.”