Chalk Talk: Smith Discusses Defense's Progress

Andrew Hirsh:Now that you've gone through training camp and four preseason games, where do you feel like the defense is at?

Richard Smith:Right now, we're doing an outstanding job. Great effort, great hustle. It's all about the ball and trying to be able to create turnovers. Everything that coach Quinn has emphasized since we've been in here—I think the guys have really done a great job. I think we've already started that, and now that the season starts, we have to continue to get better at it.

AH:Obviously Chip Kelly has a unique offense. Does that change how you approach your job as you get ready for Monday night?

RS:Nope. Not at all. Same as (always). We did the same thing we did our first preseason game. Same thing we did our last game. Our feeling is what we do is more important than what our opponents do. We're more about evaluating ourselves than evaluating our opponents.

AH:Losing Brooks Reed hurts. Coach Quinn mentioned you're going to mix and match Kroy Biermann and O'Brien Schofield at that strongside linebacker spot. How do you envision using those two?

RS:We miss Brooks. He's not involved with us but he's had that nagging injury the whole time out, so I'm glad he's able to get it back (healthy). Can't wait to get him back, but I think Kroy and Schofield are going to do a great job. They can both play on first down, and they can both play on third down in our nickel package. I don't want to give anything up with that, but they both will have almost half the duty.

AH:It seems like Ricardo Allen's transition to free safety has gone well. How have you evaluated his performance so far?

RS:I think he's done a great job. What he does is he's brought speed to the position. He's a small man, but he's done a great job of tackling during the preseason games. We're really pleased with the progress that he's made.

AH:Vic Beasley has received a lot of attention since he got drafted. What do you think he should expect from himself as a rookie?

RS:You'll have to ask him that question, not me. But to me, he's still a young rookie, still growing. He hasn't had a tremendous amount of reps in preseason, so he's still trying to get better on a daily basis.

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The Atlanta Falcons are getting ready for Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first week of the regular season. Check out these photos of the Falcons at work.

AH: **Jalen Collins had his ups and downs during preseason, and coach Quinn said on the radio this week that you're counting on him to contribute early on. Do you feel like he's ready to make that jump into a significant role?

RS:Well first off he has a great demeanor. He had a few things that were technical errors during preseason that we've corrected, and I don't think he has the kind of personality that will let it affect him. He'll come back and try to learn from the experience and get better. Every snap is a learning experience for him, so he's definitely getting there. 

AH:Quinn said Adrian Clayborn is a guy he targeted during free agency. It seems like his move to the inside at nickel DT has been successful. How important is it to not only have an effective tackle, but also have someone who can shift outside, as well?

RS:I think it's outstanding. He's a great addition. Not only can he rush the passer; I love his effort, his toughness. The speed and quickness that he brings to the position will benefit us very much so.

AH:Justin Durant looks like another solid addition. What do you think he can add to the defense?

RS:He's a real pro. In terms of him coming in from the Cowboys, he's done a great job. Love his presence. He's a very smart player because he's had a lot of reps at (outside linebacker). He still has the quickness and speed we're looking for at the position, so I think he'll have a nice year.

AH:It looks like Ra'Shede Hageman has improved drastically from last season. He's in better shape, he's buying into the system and he's been rewarded with a starting spot on the first unofficial depth chart. What do you think he's capable of in 2015?

RS:I love the size with him. He's a big, huge athlete that can push the pocket inside. He's got the length to be able to block a lot of passes and some field goals. So he's going to be a very disruptive part of our defense on the inside.

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