1. Experience Matters: With more than a quarter century of NFL coaching experience, Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith has worked with his share of Pro Bowlers and hopes to add to that list during his time in Atlanta. Smith's knowledge and expertise each has played a vital role in helping nine different players to a total of 11 Pro Bowls during his career. In 2013, Smith coached a Denver Broncos linebackers group anchored by second-year linebacker Danny Trevathan, who led the team with 124 tackles. Smith's defense in Atlanta has Pro Bowl potential, including star cornerback Desmond Trufant, who will look to continue flourishing in Year 3.
With more than 25 years of coaching experience, Richard Smith joins Dan Quinn's staff as the Falcons' new defensive coordinator
2. Takeaway Time: The Falcons defense recorded 16 interceptions in 2014, which helped lead to a plus-five turnover ratio for the season. Smith will look to enhance the takeaway total, something he's familiar doing within the NFC South. During his two seasons in Carolina (2009-10), he coached for a top-10 defense that tied for the third-most takeaways (66) in the NFL over that span.
3. Emphasizing QB Pressure and More: Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank said he wants his team's defense to produce more pressure on opposing quarterbacks next season; Smith welcomes the opportunity, having helped other clubs do the same thing. In 2005, serving as the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, his crew ranked second in the NFL in sacks with 49. In his final two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2001-02), Smith transformed a young and inexperienced linebackers group into a highly-productive unit. In 2001, despite having just two of his six linebackers on the roster with more than one year of NFL experience, Smith's group helped the team rank ninth in the league in run defense and improve to seventh the following year. Falcons linebackers Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu and Prince Shembo are among those sure to benefit from Smith's expertise.
4. Hall of Fame-Related Insight: Smith's focus will clearly be on turning the Falcons defense into a formidable force next season and years to come. He'll use each of the lessons learned during his NFL coaching career when doing so, including those that benefitted Jake Matthews' father, Hall-of-Famer Bruce Matthews, with the Houston Oilers. Smith assisted with offensive line duties in Houston and his all-around support and work with stars like Matthews will only help his new Falcons defensive players, hoping they execute play calls in Hall of Fame fashion.
5. Where It All Began: Before embarking on an NFL coaching career, Smith spent nine seasons at the collegiate level, including Cal State-Fullerton (1981-83), California (1984-86) and Arizona (1987). Smith began his coaching career at Rio Hondo Junior College in California, where he oversaw the offensive line for two seasons (1979-80). He was an offensive lineman at Rio Hondo from 1975-76 before transferring to Fresno State in 1977. He helped the Bulldogs to the Pacific Coast Athletic Association title in '77 and two years later, he graduated with a degree in physical education in 1979.