ATLANTA – Over the last two NFL drafts, the Falcons have flourished. Atlanta found three starters – Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell – in 2016 and four players – Vic Beasley, Jalen Collins, Tevin Coleman and Grady Jarrett – from the 2015 draft have stepping into prominent roles.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn have worked well together to assemble to right players to send the Falcons on a Super Bowl run. NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, who joined “A to Z with Mark Zinno” on Wednesday, used the word “fit” when describing what Dimitroff and Quinn have done together.
“They found the right fits on defense,” said Casserly. “That jumped out to me when they had that draft. I said ‘Dan Quinn has had an influence on this draft with the players they took.’ Because they fit the Seattle defensive system. He has a clear picture of what he wants. I think everyone on the building has a clear picture of what he wants, they have a better chance of getting players that are going to help them immediately.”
Team owner Arthur Blank handed down the edict of three starters from the 2016 draft; a demand Dimitroff and Quinn met. With the talent assembled, it is fair to wonder how Atlanta’s general manager could strike gold again. There’s just aren’t enough open spots… enough needs.
That’s exactly what Zinno was driving at. Could the pressure be off Dimitroff now that he’s worked wonders in two consecutive drafts and helped craft a team that made a Super Bowl appearance?
“Having held that job, you’re never pressure free,” said Casserly. “In my own opinion, I’m glad Arthur Blank had the patience to stick through the criticism, the toughness to stick through the criticism of Thomas Dimitroff. And he came out on the other end of the tunnel and he almost won a Super Bowl. I think the pressure’s on Steve Sarkisian as the offensive coordinator. That’s where the pressure is.
“But getting back to the team, I think it’s harder this year to get players to help you immediately because you’re better, you’re going to have a lower draft pick, you’re not going to be able to make the impact signing of an Alex Mack, because you don’t need him.”
The logic makes sense. While two years isn’t the largest sample size, the success rate from the team of Dimitroff-Quinn was phenomenal. There’s very little reason for Blank to call down to the front office and demand three more starters. There aren’t three starting roles up for grabs.
Sarkisian, however, must come in and take an offense that ranked eight all time in the NFL in scoring and not lose steam. Surely no one will blame the new offensive coordinator if he doesn’t direct the Falcons to 540 points scored. But Atlanta had better not fall too far down the rankings chart in team offense in 2017.
That’s a ton of pressure.
While there aren’t three starting holes to fill, Casserly said Atlanta does have needs. Guard, cornerback and getting another pass-rusher are areas the Falcons must address, according to the former Redskins GM.
To LISTEN to Casserly’s entire conversation with Zinno, click below: