FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has a plan to get his team back to where they want to be in 2018, and it starts in a couple of key areas.
Quinn and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff spoke with 92.9 The Game’s Rick Kamla and John Michaels Monday afternoon to discuss many aspects of the offseason and their approach to free agency and the draft. In the middle of the conversation, however, Quinn was asked about the No. 1 improvement he believes offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian can make in 2018.
"I would say the No. 1 [thing] that we hope as a team to accomplish better, let's get our scoring offense more in line with how we would like it," Quinn said.
"Not only are we excited for Sark but we're excited for our entire offense, because we think we can get significantly better in our turnover margin and our scoring offense."
In Sarkisian's first season as offensive coordinator, the Falcons averaged 22.1 points per game, placing them 15th in the league in that category. That average stands in stark contrast to the league-leading 33.8 points the Falcons averaged in 2016, but it's not fair to name Sarkisian as the lone cause of that drop-off.
"There's a number of factors that will go into that, but there's really three key stats," Quinn said of what goes into a team's scoring offense. "I know in all sports, especially in football, we can have a bunch of stats that we talk about a bunch. But at the end of the day, the three that I keep coming back to over and over is the turnover margin, and I like saying that one because I think all three phases are involved. To get in the plus in the turnover margin, you better create some takeaways. So, defensively, we need to have more."
After finishing tied for fourth with a turnover margin of plus-11 in 2016, the Falcons ended up ranked 19th in 2017 with a turnover margin of minus-2. Ultimately, that boils down to limiting turnovers on offense and creating takeaways on defense, which provides the offense with extra possessions throughout the course of a game.
The Falcons regressed in both aspects of the turnover margin. Atlanta's offense turned the ball over 18 times in 2017, seven more than the year prior, and the defense forced 16 takeaways after generating 22 in 2016.
Quinn mentioned that he'd like the Falcons to be among the top in both scoring offense and scoring defense, but what are the other factors that play into that and what are they doing to reach those goals?
"Scoring offense, how does that come in? That's the explosive plays that score, it's improvement in the red zone," Quinn said. "And so that's what this part of the offseason is from the staff's standpoint. It's really almost like doing an audit on everything top to bottom: How are we doing it? Which players can we feature in a different way? Which schemes do we want to add? Which schemes do we want to take out, and which things do we want to do differently? So, the term that we use is, 'What are we going to start doing, what are we going to stop doing and what are we going to do differently?'
"Those things may only make up a 10 percent shift in some things, it's not like this wholesale change of what we do. And then we've got to go through the same process, defensively. So, that's our challenge. To see how good we can get in all three phases. I love this group, I love what we stand for as a team and I'm so lit up to get rolling with the guys again as our offseason program will begin in April."