The Falcons had a 50-minute walk-through practice at the indoor facility Monday after heavy rain in the area soaked the outside practice field.
The Falcons (0-1) are set to face the Carolina Panthers (1-0) in the home opener Sunday at 1 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After practice, Falcons coach Dan Quinn addressed the media:
Opening statement: “We’ll start today and for us this bonus Monday is a good chance for us to dig into to some of the topics that need our attention. The other fun part of that, it starts preparation for the division. The team knows how much fun these games are. A chance to come back home, with our fans. We had a long time to play division games last season so to get the division started off in the early part of the year I think is good for us and good for our division too, so we’re pumped to get rolling with that. We had practice today, we held Deion Jones. We’re still getting some more tests on his foot, he came back sore from the game. So that’s where we’re at. We’ll get back to you on Wednesday with an injury report of where the guys are heading into the game.”
On newly signed defensive end Steven Means: “Yes, we added Steven Means, a defensive end. He played at Philadelphia and that’s where we did our evaluation off of him. We wanted to see if we could add more pass rush, that’s something that we’re always digging in and looking into. We thought that part of his game, we thought he had something that we could add as a pass rusher. I’m not sure where yet, is he going to be outside linebacker, defensive end. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll certainly look at that. But I like the size and I like the length of the player so when we had a chance to add we thought it was the best way to go.”
On now that he’s had time to look at the film and meet with the coaches, how the red zone plays looked: “Not much better than I reported on the other day. But what I do know that we had talked, where could we do it better, and execute better. It goes without saying we’ve put in a good bit of work there, and we’re not going to assess where we’re at after one performance. That part of our game needs to improve, and it certainly will. We just know we have work to do in that spot. As we get ready we’ll give it the attention and time it deserves. We certainly have players that we can feature down there in the very best way so we’re going to work like crazy to get that done.”
On the offensive line play and what needs to be cleaned up: “I’d say number one, make sure our balance is right. Especially on early downs to make sure our run and pass are in concert together. That’s when we’re at our best. It may have looked higher, I think we had 12 two-minute plays on the last drive. I think it was drop-back after drop-back. Being in that time in two-minute, that’s normal. But what we can do is have a better balance in our run game and our play-actions, and screens and all that goes with it. We’re certainly better off so we’ll make sure each and every week, often times there can be a game that can get out of whack, this wasn’t one of them from a run-pass number. First and second-down, having that balance helps the offensive line, helps the run game, and those two things marry so well together.”
On how he thought Brandon Fusco looked: “I thought in the first game, the protection part, that part of his game is one of the best things that he does. I thought looking at him, I thought it was a good performance from a pass protection side. Was there stuff for all of us to clean up? One hundred. But I thought for his first game against some good matchups, he held his own for sure.”
On how they can get the run game going: “Just more ops first. Where we have the chances to say where we can get some more runs going. The first couple of drives I thought we did that, then the next few we did not. Just having the balance to do that helps. When you play good fronts it’s hard to get the run game going but you can find ways to do it because eventually, those runs break. Sometimes the zero run goes for 10 and you have to keep digging and taking your shots at it. It’s a big part of what we do, our run game. We’ve got incredibly high standards for our run and how we do it and how we feature the backs. So that part certainly needs our work for sure. But more time and attention at it will certainly help too.”
On what makes Carolina hard to run against – Dallas had a tough time yesterday: “I’ve been very impressed for a few years now with their front seven. When you look at them, adding Dontari (Poe), and they had Kawann (Short) and before it was (Star) Lotulelei inside and defensive ends that can get up the field and go. Then inside linebackers with (Shaq Green-Thompson) and (Luke) Kuechly, it’s his instincts that make the difference. He has such the ability to diagnose and go get a play, that’s where I think some of their run game is really strong.”
On expectations from Cam Newton rushing the ball and plans to stop that:
“I am expecting that. It certainly is such a big part of their offense and I know they have a new offensive coordinator, but you certainly saw some of the same traits in their run game. Having an ability for the quarterback to have designed runs is different then maybe what you guys have covered in zone-read. When you’re making a decision then hand it off or keep it based on the leverage of the player. So, he’ll have some designs and runs automatically for him. When you do that you can add an extra blocker into the equation. What makes him unique is he’s extremely tough and gets extra yards after the contact. So, when he keeps them and gets out on the edge, he’s a running back and a big one. So, I anticipate that part of his game being that because that adds another element to their offense for sure. Lots of respect for how they do it, how they feature him. I think he ended up with 13 yesterday, some of those could have been on a scramble, some of those could have been on a quarterback sneak. Not every run game is a designed run for him if that makes sense. It could have been 10 or eight, that were that and the other ones came about. He’s been through the years just especially effective down the red zone and on third downs. Those are times that his ability to create plays has really come through strong even when there’s a defender there. We’ve got our work cut out for us, we certainly have players that matchup. The nice part of playing division games is that they know you well and you know them well which is part of what makes it so fun. That’s where the execution part really comes to play.”
On whether it’s fair to suggest that Cam Newton forces them to make more changes as they game plan:
“I would say that’s correct. I would say that’s pretty common, it wouldn’t be all the way because of the uniqueness of it for how they use him, you have to have a couple ways to defend them. So yes, you’re accurate in saying that because of his ability not just as a passer – the deep ball stuff has been terrific and adding Torrey (Smith) to that with the speed he has, just seems like they know how to replenish speed in the right spots. Ted (Ginn) was certainly that for them and now with Torrey there, he can certainly fly. Having guys to put into roles is an important piece. Their outside guys can really go. (Devin) Funchess has size and adding (Torrey) Smith and (DJ) Moore, those are big pieces as well. You can’t do the same thing, I agree.”
On how Damontae Kazee fits at safety versus Keanu Neal:
“We wouldn’t change what we do because they’re both physical guys and they’re different in how they apply it. Where (Keanu Neal) is strength in size and plays more like a linebacker, if you got him on the scale with them, he’s bigger than the linebackers. I don’t know if you’ve ever known that, you probably did look at Deion (Jones) and him. Their style and attitude are the same. How we feature the players will be the same, but we’ll certainly miss Keanu based on that size. Where he may make some big hits, Kazee certainly will as well. We’ll use him in the best ways that we can. Our style won’t look a lot different without Keanu and how we feature Damontae, Jordan (Richards) and Ricardo (Allen) at the safety spots.”
On whether it’ll be a straight swap: “Jordan (Richards) will get some snaps as well. He’s another one that we’ll work into the mix of guys and we’re still looking to, evaluating after who else could be but we have a lot of faith in Kazee. What he is, what he stands for. You guys have seen, and I have to, he’s probably one of the most players that have made the biggest jump from year one to year two. We see it all the time, guys that make that move, it certainly seems like he’s one that’s making that jump this year. Not to say that we’re not going to miss (Keanu Neal), because we do match him up a lot on tight ends, man to man and backs and blitz him a bit. So how do we feature Kazee. He’s got even more coverage stuff than Neal does based on his ability coming out of college as a corner. But our style will look very much similar.”
On Kazee playing corner in college, what skill set made them believe he could transition: “We saw him tackle and he was such an aggressive player. Same fearless tackling that you see now at San Diego State he had that at the same way at corner. Right when we drafted him, we never put him at corner. We just said we think he had the skill set to play safety. So right when he arrived here, we put him at safety and at nickel. When we said okay, let’s just leave him at one spot to learn it, we settled at free safety. Then this year we went back to training him at two spots where he can play safety and nickel. Now we’ll do it again with him at strong safety.”
On Norv Turner – expect him to go down the field: “I’m planning that way only because having coached against Norv in the past that’s been a big part of his offense. It’s also one of the things that Cam does really well and they have the speed to do it. I don’t know, I can’t quantify if it’s more because they took a lot of shots in my opinion last year. I don’t know if it’ll be more, but some of the route concepts I think for sure will be different. It’s not a wholesale change. I think the pass game of what they’ve done is pretty similar from when (Rob Chudzinski) was there and then Mike (Shula) took over. It’s not like these concepts are so foreign to the players in the system there if that makes sense.”
On reviewing the penalties – how they looked at them and if they had refs here to help them: “We do. I was surprised we had so many, to be honest with you. When you go back to look at them, the one with Grady (Jarrett) that’s one that they’re now calling. So the hit on the quarterback, Grady and I just had that conversation, we’ve got to get away so they can hit and at the last second, move. It’s going to be challenging when you’re going full speed one way and hitting, and how do I change and get off course. Let’s talk about some ways that we can drill it. Where I hit a bag and I can torque it on the way down where I don’t land on the player, by no means was he trying to dump the quarterback on that play with the rule is intended for, I get it. Hey pile driving the guy down, that was certainly not the case in his intent on that play. The defensive pre-snap one, certainly on a punt as well. I agreed with the one on the back side with (Ryan) Schraeder. Didn’t necessarily on the holding call to his side. But it just felt like a lot that we had and that part we have to get those way down.”
On the face mask and can refs at practice help with that: “Yes. When we see those at practice we throw them. Often times at practice it seems like there are more procedural ones, it was an offsides or the alignment wasn’t right. You don’t generally see the facemasks ones because he was going down to tackle a guy and where (Eric) Saubert grabbed him. But I think having a mindfulness for the guys being there – talking about the officials, helps and throw it. Where the natural reaction in the past might have been oh why did you throw it, but you grabbed him. It helps a lot on OPI, defensive holding, DPI, those are the ones that you see the most. You may not see the ones that generate from the contact, the facemask or the one of Grady but if we can get those other ones better I think that would help.”
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