Dan Quinn expects development from everyone, every day. His famous mantra around the team facility is to get one percent better each day, whether it’s on the practice field, in the weight room or in the meeting room. Improvement is a must.
That decree isn’t just for players, coaches fit under the improve-every-day umbrella too. And Quinn has a few ideas for how offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian can be better in 2018.
“Just another year of how to feature the guys,” Quinn responded at the Falcons’ end-of-season press conference on Thursday when asked how he would like Sarkisian to grow as a coach.“ I think that’s a better thing to understand. Some of that trust doesn’t happen overnight, and you have to really understand what nuances the guy has, how do we feature this player for this play, this one for that.”
Sounds an awful lot like Quinn wants Sark to not only utilize his weapons more effective in 2018, but for the relationship between player and Sarkisian’s playbook and play-calling to meld into a symbiotic pairing.
Take receiver Taylor Gabriel for instance (Quinn mentioned him by name – more on that momentarily). The Cleveland castoff scored six touchdowns in 2016 and averaged 16.5 yards per reception. Last year Gabriel only scored once through the air and advanced 11.5 yards per play. All that while targets (50 to 51, from 2016 to 2017) and receptions (35 to 33) remained almost identical.
Something didn’t work for Gabriel in Atlanta’s offense last season.
The same can be said for Julio Jones, who for the first time since 2012 didn’t average at least 100 yards receiving per game and was seemingly a ghost in the red zone.
“He [Sarkisian] didn’t get a chance to see even Ju [Julio Jones] or Gabe [Taylor Gabriel] until almost the regular season,” said Quinn. “They didn’t do OTAs. They didn’t do training camp. So I would hope one of the areas that we can really improve on as we’re heading into the offseason, heading into training camp is featuring the guys in the very best way, and you can only know that through your experience with them. He certainly now has all of that experience to pull back from, and then who do we add into them, and how do we feature those guys with the current group.”
Quinn has a point on the lack of reps from offensive stars during the offseason prior to 2017. Between training camp and four preaseason games, the number of times Matt Ryan was on the field at the same time as Jones, Gabriel and Devonta Freeman was limited to eight plays.
While the quartet was apart, no one worried. Why should anyone? The Falcons’ offense had just finished an historically epic output in 2016. The idea of rest, relax and everything will slide back into place proved to be fiction that even Stephen King would be proud of.
And speaking of horror, that’s what Atlanta’s offense felt like when nothing seemed to work. All the drops, the lack of execution, the penalties… the mere 22.4 points per game, down 11.4 (more than a touchdown and a field goal) per game.
From Year 1 to 2 in the Falcons’ Shanahan regime, we believe Shanahan and Ryan came together and planned an offense that utilized the best of what every Atlanta asset could provide. And boy was the proof in the pudding.
All eyes are on Sarkisian for a repeat offseason.