So now the Atlanta Falcons 2016 NFL Draft is over. The choices were made, the picks are in, and the yea or nay’s have begun. Whether or not you are a fan, pundit, or otherwise, if you cared anything about the team you have something to say. People went into this season and especially this draft knowing what you needed and there are many questions as to were those needs addressed. The truth of it all is that we will not know the impact of the draft until free agency starts, however it is very clear that the person primarily responsible for pulling the strings is Head Coach Dan Quinn.
From the moment Dan Quinn took the helm as Atlanta Falcons’ Head Football Coach, he wanted to build a team that was “fast and physical” and with his background being on the defensive side of the ball that primarily has been geared towards upgrading the speed and physicality of the defenders. It is also evident that Quinn in conjunction with Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith have absolutely taken the talent present within the organization and have maximized the talents with coaching. Moving from nearly last in defense to the middle of the pack is no easy task especially considering the personnel within was “questionable”.
Even though the Falcons’ Defense improved, it was still lacking in some very crucial areas; pass rush, tackling, and covering in the intermediate middle and flat areas. Serious upgrades in speed, especially within the Linebacking Corp and disruption of the quarterback by sacking or moving him off his spot is imperative to take the next step up. In free agency, some fringe but effective ball players like Derrick Shelby and Courtney Upshaw were brought in to solidify the pass rush, primarily complementing the improved play of Adrian Clayborn and Rookie Vic Beasley.
Dan Quinn has a blueprint of what he wants this defense to look like and how to go about doing that. In his previous job as Defensive Coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, he could not help but learn certain nuances in dealing with personnel, especially with defensive linemen. That team brought in “hungry” and “eager” free agents that showed flashes of talent but did not live up to the hype of being with a particular ball club or seemed to be “one-year” wonders and the franchise did not want to pony up the dollars to keep them.
Quinn also witnessed the ways in which the Seahawks took athletic physical “freaks” and coached them into viable superstars, especially the back four of the defense. That philosophy of building a great back four goes hand in hand with the ever changing rules and NFL offensive schemes. This ain’t your daddy’s NFL to some degree, hybrid players in the back seven of a defense seem to be just as important as the front four.
This brings us to the current crop of draftees for the Atlanta Falcons. With the 17th pick, the Falcons chose Safety Keanu Neal from Florida, with the 52nd pick they chose Linebacker Deion Jones from LSU, and with the 115th pick De’Vondre Campbell from Minnesota. Other picks included Tight End Austin Hooper from Stanford, Guard Wes Schweizer from San Jose State, and Wide Receiver Devin Fuller from UCLA. Those that were picked on the defensive side reflected exactly what Dan Quinn wants to be as a defense. All have size and lots of speed with tackling ability.
The criticism has primarily come from the placement of the picks and feeling like the team did not address the pass rush but the franchise already has and we all have to exude patience in that part of the process in the 2nd year of the regime. Like all free agency pick-ups and draftees, whether or not they got it right will be answered on the field. We’re all looking forward to the 2016 Campaign for our hometown Atlanta Falcons.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21 or by email a Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.