ATLANTA – The Atlanta Falcons did not have the season they expected in 2018, and that was certainly true on the defensive side of the ball.
After finishing 2017 on a high note, Atlanta's defense looked poised for even greater things as its young core of players continued to progress. Early injuries to three of those core players, Ricardo Allen, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, left the unit scrambling to regain its identity.
All three of those players will be back in 2019, and they will rejoin a defense that has a bitter taste in its mouth after a rough season.
"I think it's going to be a little bit different," Jones said of what can be expected on defense. "Guys have a chip on their shoulder about what happened this year and guys coming back have a lot to prove. With that type of anticipation and guys coming back with their teeth chomping, I think we'll be pretty good. We've just got to put it all together and set our standard and get after it."
The Falcons moved on from defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel following the season and head coach Dan Quinn will assume the role and the responsibilities that come with it moving forward. Quinn was one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL during his time in Seattle, and he wants to fully implement his vision for the Falcons' defense.
Those who worked with Quinn in Seattle are confident in his abilities as a defensive coordinator, and that is a sentiment shared by his Pro Bowl middle linebacker.
"I think he'll do great," Jones said. "He was a coordinator in Seattle, he has experience. And he's always been in the [meeting] room. It will be dope to have him there all the time."
While there may be some small adjustments from how things have traditionally operated, Quinn has been involved with the defense and fully understands the personnel he has on hand. It remains to be seen, however, how these new responsibilities will impact how Quinn handles his head coaching duties.
Quinn's fingerprints are already all over Atlanta's defense, but he will now be calling plays on Sundays, allowing him to deploy his players in the way he believes is best.
"He's always been around us, but now we'll have him around us permanently," Jones said. "It will be great to have him. He knows each guy; each aspect of the defense and he'll have it rolling.
"Once we get into the flow of things I know he's going to see what we like, what allows us to play fast and error-free. He's going to put us in those positions to play just like that. It's going to be fun."