KC: After being able to watch a full practice, what is your impression of the 2015 Falcons? AM:Not to knock the energy level of last year, but this is at a complete other level. It's very different. I know that Seattle has been using a DJ before, but in 21 years of covering NFL practices; I have never actually seen a DJ spinning music at practice. When I talked to O'Brien Schofield and he said that guys ask him everyday, "Is this real, is this really happening?" I think players are really buying into the energy that Dan Quinn and his staff have here in Atlanta. And I think that is one of the biggest differences, as well as the depth on this team. It is a much deeper team based upon what they did in free agency. It's a more talented team than the one that the Falcons had last year.
KC: Speaking of free agency, what are your thoughts on the offseason efforts to improve the pass rush with the additions of guys like, Adrian Clayborn, Vic Beasley Jr. and Justin Durant? And how do you think they fit with Dan Quinn's defensive scheme?
AM: It is a rotation system. That's the reality of it. And you know, you have to start somewhere. And Vic Beasley is that guy. He is going to be the cornerstone rusher for this team. But I think you needed some complementary pieces —that's where Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn and O'Brien Schofield. Guys who can rotate in, and keep Vic Beasley fresh. What you want are bodies in this system and you look at the type of deep defensive line that Seattle had, same type of philosophy here and the numbers are there for the Falcons to have success and be better than they have been the past couple of years. Where as you know, the past two years, no team in the NFL has fewer sacks than Atlanta.
KC: Who do you see as the Falcons breakout player of 2015?
AM:Devonta Freeman really has a chance for that, provided that he can stay healthy. I think he will be pushed by Tevin Coleman, so I think that is one of those real competitions to watch, and don't discount Antone Smith because this guy just keeps shocking people. But a player who has been around the NFL who I think may be able to post some pretty impressive numbers, is Jacob Tamme. In a Kyle Shanahan type offense, the tight end really ends up catching a lot of passes. So I think Tamme really has a shot to get a bulk of the passes thrown this way. So I think this might be a breakout season for Jacob Tamme as his career unfolds.
KC: The zone-block scheme puts emphasis on the run game, and that will provide a more balanced attack. What are your expectations for Matt Ryan— knowing that with the help of the run game, he won't have to carry the offense in this new system?
AM: The hope is that the Falcons are less predictable on offense. The problem last year was straight drop backs. As Joe Hawley told me, it was putting too much pressure on the offensive line, the way the system was being run. You need a running game to complement. Plus, you want Matt (Ryan) mobile. That is one of the things the system will do. He will roll out and take some more snaps under center and be a little less predictable on the offensive side of the football and get a better run-pass ratio. I also think that the offensive line on these zone-blocking teams, some of the parts can be better than the individuals. This is a type of system that requires everyone to be in unison but when you are and it's clicking, and the running back makes one cut and goes and doesn't delay, I think this team really has a chance for success. Matt Ryan has a chance to feed off that running game and become even more lethal in the passing game.
KC: In your opinion, how do the Falcons maximize Julio Jones' production?
AM: Keep throwing him the football. He is going to end up catching it. When you can get the double teams away from him and you can draw attention away from him, that is the really the best way to get him open. Of course that means everyone else needs to be able to compliment him. Julio is great at running the deep routes, but I think he can run any type of route. Julio is absolutely one of the best.
KC: Justin Hardy has been very impressive throughout camp. What did you see from the rookie as you watched camp?
AM: The guy catches everything. He is so effective at that and I believe he set the NCAA record for receptions with the Pirates of East Carolina University and I think this guy can come in and play quickly. It has been interesting because there is so much passing going on in the NCAA now, a lot of times these players need a little less time to make the transition from the college ranks to the NFL. When you are surrounded by guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones who have been here and know Matt Ryan, it really helps accelerate that learning process. I think there is a real legitimate scrum right now for snaps between Devin Hester and Justin Hardy. You also can't discount Leonard Hankerson coming over from the Redskins knowing the Kyle Shanahan system, and Eric Weems, is there anyway he can touch the football beyond special teams? This is a good problem to have when it comes to depth.