FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – After an offseason full of coaching changes and roster additions, Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes his team is "well positioned for an exceptional year."
One of the main reasons for Blank's optimism stems from the move Dan Quinn made in assuming the role of defensive coordinator. Although this won't be Quinn's first time calling plays for Atlanta's defense (he did in the final quarter of the 2016 season when the Falcons earned a trip to Super Bowl LI), this will be the first time he's taking on the role in its entirety.
Given how much time he'll spend with the defense on gameday, Quinn hired former Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton as a senior defensive assistant to assist him with in-game duties such as clock management, replay review, etc.
"I'm encouraged given their experience and that Coach Quinn is going to be more directly involved," Blank said of his expectations for the defense.
Blank also said the Falcons will continue to build to their defense through the NFL Draft with the main needs being the offensive and defensive lines and the other positions where Atlanta currently has "holes" at on defense.
Fortunately for the Falcons, the strength of this year's draft class come on the defensive side of the ball, starting at defensive line. The Falcons hold the No. 14 overall pick and have nine picks to use.
Don't be surprised, either, if the Falcons address the offensive line early in this draft. Despite signing three linemen – all guards – in free agency, the Falcons still need to solidify the right tackle position. Matt Ryan was sacked 42 times and the offense struggled to move the ball consistently.
"This is my 19th year as an owner and one of the things I've learned is that Matt (Ryan) plays much better vertically than horizontally," Blank said. "I don't think we're complete in terms of the offensive line. I think it'll be an area of great scrutiny and activity during the draft."
Regardless, Blank didn't hold back in saying he has high hopes for Atlanta's draft weekend.
"My personal feeling based off our needs and based on talent available is this will be probably one of the better drafts we've had," Blank said. "I'll be surprised if that's not the case."
With new coordinators in place – the Falcons also hired Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator and Ben Kotwica as the special teams coordinator – and a majority of the starting lineup returning and some new pieces to come, Blank's confident about the direction his franchise is headed in.
"I'm very optimistic about where the franchise is, [where] our leadership is [and] all the young players we have," Blank said.
"If you look at our defense, all the talent we have, a great majority of it is very young players. On offense, we've got all the tools we need. We have a young great running back returning to us [in] Devonta Freeman [who will] hopefully be in good health. Ito Smith stepped up last year, so we're excited about where we are."