It’s been a positive pre-draft offseason for the Falcons. And here are the best five aspects of the previous few months:
5. No Drama: The franchise is in steady hands, sure of where it is going. The ‘Brotherhood’ remains strong among the players. No arrests or controversies. It’s been fairly quiet and that’s a very good thing.
4. Locking down the secondary: The top priority of the front office was to lock-in the current players that were front-burner contract issues. While the decisions to retain or move on from players was made across the roster, the most emphasis came in the defensive backfield. After securing Robert Alford to an extension late in the season last year, the club then solidified the secondary with a new deal for Kemal Ishmael and an elite-level contract extension to Pro Bowl cover corner Desmond Trufant. These players, along side Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Jalen Collins, Brian Poole, C.J. Goodwin and the re-signed Blidi Wreh-Wilson, make for one of the top units in the NFL now and into the future.
3. Big free-agent moves: Many, frankly including me, did not expect an big time free agent move this offseason. The fact that the club went strongly after and then signed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe was a surprise; a very good one. Poe and Grady Jarrett figure to compliment each other and become a potentially dynamic combination on the interior line. Defensive end Jack Crawford could develop into a more prominent player in the rotation and wide receiver/kick return specialist Andre Robertson’s resume’ speaks to his big-play return ability and a significant upgrade to the Falcons field-position chances.
2. Big positive coaching changes: Not many Super Bowl teams lose both coordinators immediately following the game. It was known that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan would be on the move (and considering what happened it was best for both that was already in place). What we did not know was that defensive coordinatr Richard Smith was also out. The story coming that the Falcons growth on defense in the second half of the season was due in large part to Smith having his main duties stripped from him by Dan Quinn.
Quinn now has a rising coaching star in Marquand Manuel promoted to lead the defense and work alongside, among others, new defensive line coach Bryant Young, who was a major NFL star at that spot in his playing days and will bring a new focus and energy to that group. With Shanahan in San Francisco, the Falcons hired Steve Sarkisian away from Alabama to be the new OC. Sarkisian was familiar with Quinn, Matt Ryan and the Falcons system and the pledge is to not make major changes to a record-setting offense.
1. They’ve handled the Super Bowl 51 fallout with strength & class: With the heartache of losing the big game the way that they did and the near constant petty shots that have been taken at them, the Falcons have not shied from the fire. Instead they have faced the questions, heard the insults and refused to allow that chatter to sidetrack the mission moving forward. What could have been a double disaster doesn’t appear to have happened. The way they have dealt with the emotions publicly says that the loss is a rallying point for this coming season and beyond.