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Exclusive: Five questions with Mike Smith


Every Monday, managing editor Jay Adams will sit down with Falcons head coach Mike Smith for five questions you won't find answers to anywhere else.

Jay Adams: We've had some close games to start the season, with the exception of the Arizona game. When we're talking about the NFL, coaches mention all the time that it's tough to win football games in the league, but how tough is it to win by two scores or more?

Mike Smith: Well, I think statistically, you're going to see the majority of the games are probably eight points or less, so we approach it as a two-point win is a blowout in terms of how the league is. That's how it's set up in terms of the parity of the league. Each and every week, any team can beat any team and we've got to make sure that we're prepared.

JA: A trend that has developed this year is the dependability of Matt Bryant. When you look at his preseason and compare it to his regular season, do the two correlate at all or are they two separate things?

MS: I don't know that there's a correlation between the preseason and the regular season in terms of veteran players because they have been doing it for so long that they have a routine that they go through. That's not to say that they're not going out and trying to perform, but I think they have a clock in their bodies that tells them, 'Hey, come the second week in September, I've got to be in the best mental and physical shape that I can possibly be in,' and I think when you have a veteran like Matt that he knows what it's going to take and knows that when you actually have to perform when the games count, you have to be ready.

JA: You were talking about Kroy Biermann's play in your news conference, but I did some research this morning and found the scouting report on him from before the 2008 Combine. One of the negatives on him reads, 'Instinctive, high-effort player who may be maxed out.' Obviously, he wasn't maxed out and you saw something in him back then. Do you remember what it was like seeing him back then and how he's transitioned to this point?

MS: Yeah, we saw a high-effort player that played at the University of Montana that had some pass rush skills. We were concerned about his growth potential because he was really, I think, just a 245-pound defensive end, but he was a guy when we got an opportunity to sit down and see him, we saw that he had the potential to get bigger. And he has gotten bigger. He's also a guy that, I think, was just scratching the surface in terms of technique, in terms of being a pass rusher in this league.

JA: You go from preparing for a running back like Peyton Hillis, who's a gigantic back that's difficult to bring down, to preparing for Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy. What changes in preparation? I mean, the fundamentals are still there. Good tackling is good tackling, right?

MS: Yes, the fundamentals are there. The thing that you have to be prepared for is, you knew this past week when you were facing Peyton Hillis that when you got within a yard or so of him, he was going to be there and he was going to lower his shoulder and go north and south. When you start talking about the Eagles running back, he is a very fast guy that can change direction and he is a good stop-and-start player, so it's going to be a little bit different in terms of how you approach the tackle and also how you pursue. You're going to have to change your angles of pursuit knowing that this is a guy that has the home-run speed.

JA: You're a defensive-minded guy, and the prevailing theory among the fans seems to be that 3-4 defenses are tougher to operate against than 4-3 defenses. Do you think the growth of the offense is somewhat determined by facing these tougher defenses and maybe it challenges the offense to get better at a faster rate?

MS: Well, you want to be challenged each and every week, and I think if you're asking, is the 3-4 more difficult than the 4-3, I really think it's about the players. When you're based out of a 3-4 defense, you're going to get some 4-3 principles and if you're based out of a 4-3, you're going to get 3-4 principles. So we're going to have to change gears a little bit this week because the Philadelphia Eagles base out of a 4-3 defense — more times than not, there's going to be four guys with their hands in the dirt or in the grass — and this is a team that has a very dynamic blitzing package, even though the 3-4 teams can blitz from a number of different spots with guys standing up that can go into coverage. Philadelphia's done a very good job with their zone blitz package.

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