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No Overhaul But Nolan Aims To Tweak Falcons Defense


As any Falcons defensive player about new coordinator Mike Nolan and he'll tell you the approach is simplified with aggressive tendencies.

The next question is typically where the aggressive nature comes from. One of the keys to Nolan's philosophy on defense is allowing players to play to their strengths. The thought is that if he's learned the defense and is able to be instinctive instead of reactive, he'll flow to the play much easier, and hopefully quicker.

On Wednesday, Nolan said as much and called the system he's installing in Atlanta "player friendly." While some of the terminology and system specifics have changed, the coordinator said "at least half if not a little bit more" of the defense will remain the same. Its main goal is to have players playing in a system that is comfortable to them and what they do best and letting the results show on the field.

According to Nolan, a massive overhaul of scheme and terminology isn't necessary for the Falcons. The offseason process has been beneficial to the defense to learn to play up to the speed that Nolan demands.

"The problem is if a guy is thinking too much on the field because of terminology, he's not playing fast," Nolan said. "That's a lot of what the OTAs and minicamp try to get out of the way."

One of Atlanta's key re-signings in the offseason was veteran defensive end John Abraham. The 13-year veteran was a rookie with the New York Jets when Nolan was the Jets' defensive coordinator in 2000. Nolan said he's seen nothing during minicamp to change his high regard for the pass rusher. Abraham is expected to see more from last year's defense in his playbook than anything he ever saw in Nolan's playbook with the Jets.

"Half of this package is very similar in that respect," Nolan said. "That would be the carry-over for him. Not much from long ago."

Abraham and defensive playmakers like Sean Weatherspoon will be asked to do much of the same things this season as they have in past years. Weatherspoon will play the same weakside outside linebacker position as he did last season and Nolan anticipates everything in the defense to be very familiar, as is the case with the entire defense.

"We'll be a 4-3 and we'll use 3-4 at times, but we'll be primarily a 4-3 because this team is built that way," Nolan said. "You want to play to your player's strengths."

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