Andrew Hirsh:The offensive line has come together nicely so far. What message have you been sending the guys to make sure they continue to progress?
Kyle Shanahan: Just to keep grinding. You always get better or worse, you never stay the same. I always feel like my back is against the wall, and I think our players do, too. If you get comfortable or satisfied, that's when you get embarrassed in this league. So we by no means feel like we've arrived. It's early in the year; it can go in a bunch of different ways. We know we have a huge test in front of us this week and have to play our best ball to have a chance to win.
AH:Is there anything specific you want to improve?
KS: Not really. We try to look at everything the same. We try to improve every day, every clip that we take. There's really not a clip that we watch where we think, 'Oh, this play is good, we're good.' There's always something to get better at, even if it's just one out of the 11 guys. We're not in the business of pumping people up all the time. We sit there, we coach them and we detail it up. WE have a good group of guys who want to be great and they look at themselves hard and no one's satisfied. We're all trying to get better.
AH: From my perspective, Andy Levitre took a big step forward against Houston. How satisfied have you been with his development?
KS: I've been real impressed with him. From the beginning he showed how smart he was, that he could come in after a week. I really didn't think that was possible. But he showed he could do it, and each week, it's gotten easier for him because of the reps. Now he's more comfortable and I do feel what we're doing really helps his skill set. With the type of guy he is, with the work ethic he has, I think he'll only get better.
AH: Levitre's success was a big reason why you guys were able to run the ball inside versus the Texans. I know this offense really emphasizes those outside rushes, but how big is it to have the talent up front and the aggressive running backs to mix things up and pound it up the middle?
KS: You have to be able to use everything. It's week-to-week in this league, and no matter what you're good at, no matter who you are, eventually a team will stop it. It's not just outside runs, not just inside runs. Same thing with bootlegs, dropback passes—if you do a lot of something in this league, they'll stop it. In order to win throughout the year, you have to be very diverse and be able to do everything.
AH: Everyone's talking about Devonta Freeman and his ridiculous start. Going over the tape, it looks like he's been a lot more confident of late and isn't hesitating as much. In your mind, is that sense of comfort the reason why he's been able to do so well?
KS: Yeah, definitely. And he didn't really have a training camp, either. He didn't get cleared until the Philly game, so that's a long time without playing football. You don't get a ton of reps in practice like you do in training camp, so he needed game reps to get himself going. He started showing in Dallas that he's fully 100 percent and you're seeing it on the field now.
With their game against the Washington Redskins just days away, the Atlanta Falcons hit the practice fields to continue working toward success. These are some of our favorite practice pictures from Week 5.
AH:** The passing game has been real solid, too. I think you guys are second in the league right now in passing yards. Still, Matt Ryan and a few other players have said they've yet to fully grasp the new playbook. How do you feel that education is going, and how long do you think it'll be before the guys have grasped it all?
KS: Honestly as a coach you never feel like you get there. You always want everything to be perfect, and that's impossible. So after each game, I feel like we have a bunch we can do a lot better. No one's ever had a perfect game. I think Matt feels the same way. We've done enough to win, we've protected the ball, we've scored enough points, but we're still always trying to do better.
AH: There's been a lot of discussion about Roddy White and what he can bring to the table at 33. What's your assessment of his recent work?
KS: Roddy's been doing what we've asked him to do, and that's play in all phases of the game. He's been tough as a blocker. When we've called his number, he's done his job. I know we haven't called it as much as he's gotten it in the past, but we have some pretty good options with Julio, and for the most part, Julio's been open. And we've got some other guys who've done a good job. But it's going to come his way. Coverages change, and when they do, we won't hesitate to go to him. I think Roddy's proven himself over a long time and will continue to prove this year that he can get the job done.
AH: Jacob Tamme has looked solid in practice. Where's he at right now in his concussion recovery?
KS: Tamme's been good. We've had him out on the field the last two days and I look forward to hopefully seeing him on Sunday.
AH: Are you planning on him dressing?
KS: Yeah, I'd be surprised if he didn't.
AH: Moeaki is another tight end you're familiar with from training camp. How does adding him a month into the season help your offense?
KS: It helps a lot just to have some depth. I usually have three tight ends, and we've gone so far this year with two. We've been pretty fortunate. Got a little scary in Dallas when we lost Tamme, but to have the option to add three really helps you. You're not as limited that way with what you can do.
This Throwback Thursday, we're taking at look some of the Falcons greats as we continue to celebrate 50 seasons, presented by Equifax.
AH:** You mentioned earlier today that Tevin Coleman is another guy recovering well from injury. Even if he can't go on Sunday, how important is it to know that he, along with Freeman and Terron Ward, will give you a lot of running back depth moving forward?
KS: It always helps. As a coach, when you go into a game without the players you need, you're thinking about the worst case scenario, and you're wondering what you are going to do. So knowing he'll be back, it makes you comfortable going into the games, the more bodies you can have up. I believe in all three of the guys, so whoever's out there, I expect him to get the job done.
AH: It seems your offense has been real creative thus far in 2015. What's allowed you to get so imaginative with your play-calling?
KS: We have guys who can do everything. We have a good group of backs; our receivers can do a bunch of things. Obviously we have a good quarterback, and our O-line has been good, too. We try to mix it around, and we have the personnel where we haven't been handcuffed. We've been able to stay fairly healthy, and the more healthy you stay, the more options you have.
AH: Switching gears to the opponent...Washington's defense has gotten off to a good start. Its front seven looks particularly strong, Chris Baker especially. What's the key to moving the ball against this group?
KS: Chris Baker is a good player; I remember him from my time there. Obviously they have a lot of other good guys in there, too. I think their front seven is as good of one as we've played this year. It's not a coincidence why they're one of the better defenses in the league statistically. They create a lot of issues in there, lots of good players, so the key is to keep people off balance.
AH: Kirk Cousins often credits you with his early development as an NFL quarterback. What did you do as a coach and mentor to help him become a starter in this league?
KS: He knew from early on that I really believed in him. I think Kirk be a very good quarterback. He is a good quarterback now, but the sky's the limit for him. The way he prepares, the way he works, and with his god-given ability, I think he can be one of the better ones. He always knew I believed in him that way and it's good to see him have some success.
AH: Knowing as much as you do about Cousins, what does the Falcons defense need to do to slow him down?
KS: You have to try to make him one-dimensional. You want to put all the pressure on the quarterback, and when the pressure is on the quarterback, it's hard for anybody to beat you.