With Arthur Smith’s first coaching tree all but set, there’s a lot to be excited about in Atlanta. I didn’t really foresee any of these names prior to the hiring of Smith, but they each bring something different to the table. These are just my arbitrary gut rankings. What’s most important to Coach Smith is bringing in smart people to challenge the way he thinks. I won’t be covering everyone, but I will be highlighting some notable coaches and possible under the radar names.
13. Defensive Backs Coach Jon Hoke
Sorry Jon, you automatically lose points for being Brady Hoke’s brother. Jokes aside, Hoke has been coaching since 1982, most recently with Maryland for two seasons. He was the Defensive Backs Coach in Tampa Bay from 2016-2018, in which they ranked 22nd, 32nd, and 27th respectively.
12. Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Nick Perry
This might be a weird addition to this list, but Nick Perry worked with a lot of talented defensive backs under Nick Saban as an assistant at Alabama. I like what he brings to the table, especially as a younger guy at only 29 years old.
11. Outside Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino
Ted Monachino has done great work with Chicago’s outside linebackers over the past two seasons, and even as a MIKE, Roquan Smith has undoubtedly benefited from his presence. He was the defensive coordinator for the Colts from 2016-2017, during which Indy ranked 30th in total defense over both seasons.
10. Linebackers Coach Frank Bush
Frank Bush served in interim after Gregg Williams was fired for, in my opinion, throwing a game, and the Jets were a much improved team. The Athens native has been coaching for over thirty years, and Bush’s defense held the Rams to 16 points and the Browns to 20 points in the only two Jets wins of the season.
9. Quarterbacks Coach Charles London
I actually think highly of Charles London’s resumé, but he has only served as a running backs coach previously. With Arthur Smith acting as the hub of the offense, this is a move likely focused on developing London himself and getting another perspective in the quarterbacks room.
8. Offensive Coordinator Dave Ragone
The words “Bears Quarterbacks” or “Bears Passing Game” is a title that may turn some off, but I wouldn’t get too tied up in that. He played the position in the NFL and has close ties to Arthur Smith. Smith obviously values having a former player in the room, even if he won’t be calling the plays.
7. Passing Game Analyst TJ Yates
Shoutout to TJ aka “The Yates of Hell”, his nickname gets him a leg up on this list. Great nicknames aside, Yates was a Falcon for a long time and knows Matt Ryan well. His intelligence kept him in the NFL for a long time, so I think he’s a solid pickup.
6. Special Teams Coach Marquice Williams
Continuing Younghoe Koo’s excellence and developing the promising Sterling Hofrichter is key, but a special teams blunder cost Atlanta early on against Dallas. From my profile on Williams:
Special Teams rankings are sort of a weird statistic, but Detroit ranked first in the NFL for Field Goals Allowed and Field Goal Percentage Allowed. The Lions also held opponents to the fourth fewest punt return yards. In the same breath, a lot of these statistics play into how well the defense is performing, so they aren’t the end-all for telling Williams’ story.
In 2019, he assisted in the success of cornerback Jamal Agnew, who led the League in overall return touchdowns (2) that season.
As a defensive assistant with the Chargers in 2018, Williams assisted the ninth-best defensive unit (333.7 ypg allowed) in the League and guided rookie safety Derwin James to his first-career Pro Bowl.
5. Tight Ends Justin Peelle
Justin Peelle was a sneaky good hire. Hayden Hurst’s fifth-year option is still up in the air, and I would like for the team to retain Jaeden Graham. Peelle worked with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert in Philly, and he’s a former player that will undoubtedly help a position that may also be addressed in the draft.
4. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean Pees is going to be a wild card, plain and simple. I really like his attacking, multiple front scheme, and how he emphasizes developing inside linebackers. Atlanta has a very talented young core, and I have the gut feeling that Pees will be a home run. Regardless, I’m excited to see Atlanta start mixing up their fronts with Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, and whoever they bring in via the draft and free agency.
3. Defensive Line Coach Gary Emanuel
Outside of a few guys, defensive line has been a sore spot in Atlanta for what feels like forever. Emanuel has a fantastic pedigree, and I’d be willing to bet former Boilermakers Kawann Short and Ryan Kerrigan will draw interest from Atlanta. The Falcons will, and should, target the trenches as well as EDGE early and often in the draft, so Emanuel will have lots of young talent to mold along with a superstar in Grady Jarrett.
2. Wide Receivers Coach Dave Brock
To keep it short — don’t fix what isn’t broken. One of the only holdovers from the old staff, Brock has done an unbelievable job developing Atlanta’s wide receivers.
1. Offensive Line Coach Dwayne Ledford
This is my guy right here. Not only is solidifying the offensive line critical; Ledford has a fantastic track record and is widely considered to be a home run hire. Drafting a guy like Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker, or Landon Dickerson while adding a piece in free agency could transform Atlanta’s offensive line into a wall that protects Matt Ryan and paves the road for a likely rookie running back. Chris Lindstrom is fantastic, Jake Matthews is solid, and Kaleb McGary had a nice start before injuries began nagging him. Ledford will have a lot to work with. From my profile on him:
Considered one of the top offensive line tacticians in the country, Dwayne Ledford was named the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at the University of Louisville on Dec. 18, 2018.
Ledford joins the Louisville staff after three seasons as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at NC State, where he helped construct the Wolfpack’s offensive lines into one of the best units in the ACC. Senior Garrett Bradbury was a consensus All-American earned Associated Press All-America honors and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. Bradbury and left tackle Tyler Jones both made the All-ACC team this season. It was the first time since 1974 the Pack had two from the offensive linemen on the first-team.
The Wolfpack had a 1,000-yard rusher in each season of Ledford’s tenure. NC State went from 2002 to 2015 without a 1,000-yard rusher, which was the longest drought in the country.
In three seasons directing the offensive line, the Wolfpack saw their sack total decrease, ranking among the top 20 in the country. NC State ranked third nationally this season in sacks allowed, giving up just 0.75 per game, while they finished tied for fifth in 2017 and 20th in 2016. State also saw its sacks allowed dramatically reduced under Ledford. The Wolfpack allowed 39 sacks in 2015 and then 17, 13 and nine in the subsequent seasons.
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