FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Two of Atlanta's biggest positional needs heading into the offseason was at guard and tight end. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said at the NFL Scouting Combine that it was no secret the team was looking at the guard position. Then when Levine Toilolo was released, the need for a tight end with the ability to block became apparent.
The Falcons took care of both of those needs with the additions of veteran guard Brandon Fusco and tight end Logan Paulsen.
At the league meetings in Orlando, Quinn talked about each of the new additions to his roster.
Quinn likes versatility in his offensive linemen and that's what he saw in Fusco. Not only does he have experience in the wide zone scheme, his ability to pass protect was what really stood out to Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
"We felt the interior spot at guard, we definitely wanted to address," Quinn said. "Adding Fusco, we went in and looked at all the guards and centers. Sometimes in free agency it's the centers that can play guard too. What we came out with is a guy in Fusco who has really good pass protection ability. That was one of the topics in our scheme that we really wanted to address inside. We liked the versatility in the run game. For us to play into the wide zone scheme, you have to have the ability to get lateral. We saw those two things and we saw him in that scheme which also was a good thing for us. We'll put him right into the mix in the competition at the right guard spot."
Fusco will battle with Wes Schweitzer who started all 16 games for the Falcons at right guard in 2017 this training camp in what Dimitroff believes is one of the position battles expected to have "hot competition."
Paulsen was the Falcons' next outside acquisition.
In Atlanta's offense, multiple tight ends are necessary. Austin Hooper is used primarily as a pass-catching option, while the other tight end must be able to be an asset a blocker.
That's what Paulsen brings to the table.
"We've watched Logan for a while," Quinn said. "At the line of scrimmage is where he's at his best. It's the physicality – it's the blocking an outside linebacker or a defensive end and we wanted that part of our game really intact. He brings that to our game. With Logan, some of the things he'll do won't necessarily show up on the stat sheet but it's the physicality we felt like we really needed in our run game. All the combination blocks that take place between a tight end and a tackle when you run a wide zone scheme, you better have a really strong ability to get a guy pushed. We're really excited to have him."
Then there's the addition of cornerback and special teams ace, Justin Bethel.
Quinn wants the special teams unit to improve in the upcoming season and Bethel's biggest strength is what he can bring on teams. That's why he's been to three Pro Bowls.
"With Bethel, the first thing that jumps out is the speed," Quinn said. "For us, that's where it starts. He's had a terrific background on special teams. For us that's a real area of emphasis going into this offseason. How do we improve our starting field position in the terms of how we cover? That goes into kickoff and punt coverage."
Bethel will be a quality depth player for the Falcons at cornerback, a position Quinn believes you can never have too many of.
"He's more of an outside guy at corner for us," Quinn said. "He has speed and length. In our system, whether it's 3-deep or man-to-man, you better stay on top. You have to have speed to go on some of the long routes. He fits the bill on both of those."