The Atlanta Falcons are off to a disastrous start at 1-3 on the season, and things only seem to be getting worse each Sunday. Every week we see a different team with a new dilemma. Many areas need to be fixed, but the Falcons’ primary issue is their lack of identity. Dan Quinn and Company have not been able to get their message through to the players, and the result is one of the worst teams in the league despite talent lining up across the board.
Dirk Koetter was brought in to bring life to this offense, as Steve Sarkisian left much to be desired after replacing Kyle Shanahan. The problem with Koetter thus far has been he refuses to establish the run before calling long developing passing plays. You will not win many football games when you refuse to balance your attack.
Devonta Freeman has only eclipsed more than 12 rushes in a game one time this season, which is unforgivable. A running game is vital to success, but even if it is not as fruitful as Koetter might have hoped, it still must be utilized. By altogether abandoning the run; it makes things ten times easier for opposing defenses. With no balance, there will be no success. When looking at the most pass-heavy teams in the NFL, Atlanta ranks first, averaging 44 attempts per contest. And what you’ll notice about most of the other teams around them at the top, they aren’t very good either. Through four weeks of football, we have seen the Falcons come out with a predictable gameplan that gets busted before the 1st quarter ends, digging themselves into a hole they often cannot recover from.
Before this season, the offense was predicated on quick passing plays that allowed Matt Ryan to get the ball out of his hands to his playmakers. Behind a less than stellar offensive line, Koetter’s pass-happy offense has not allowed Matt Ryan to stay upright, and porous route combos aren’t resulting in open receivers. To salvage the season on the offensive side of the ball, Koetter must look himself in the mirror and change his entire gameplan. It’s difficult not to view Steve Sarkisian as a scapegoat for last season after what has happened early this year.
When Dan Quinn announced that he was going to take over the defensive play-calling duties, Falcons fans rejoiced as they thought the heights of 2016 could be reached once again. Instead, Quinn has turned this group into a very passive defense that allows the opposing offense free yards left and right. A slight schematic change from a 4-3 under to a 3-4 base defense was thought to feature the strengths of individual players. However, it hasn’t turned out that way thus far.
What we have seen are players who are uncomfortable with the base defense plowed through and declining linebacker play. The problem isn’t talent; its how they are being coached. There is no reason for them to be run through week-in and week-out as they have so far this season.
The terms fast and physical are mantras that Dan Quinn likes to spout, but they have no meaning when you attribute it to passive defense. The defensive play calls point to a lack of creativity in terms of pass-rushing and soft zones that are played so deep that the offensive player can get a first down by walking straight through. For the Falcons to change for the better, they need to start being aggressive and never look back. Allow the defensive backs to play more man and press these receivers. Changes have been needed, and Dan Quinn has been reluctant to make them. If he doesn’t, he will be on the streets by the end of the season
The media needs to be on this coaching staff’s neck and ask them the tough questions. Why does Dirk Koetter insist on limiting the run game? Why is Dan Quinn so passive defensively when he preaches “fast and physical?” If it is genuinely on the players, why hasn’t anyone been benched by now? When does the gameplan change and get more creative? Where are the adjustments from week to week that the staff projects in the press conferences? The fans deserve answers, and if they don’t get them soon, Arthur Blank will have something to say about it.