The Falcons suited up on Sunday for another day of 2015 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp. Fans were out in numbers to see their favorite players in person.
KC: What are some of the specific things you are looking for from Dan Quinn and the Falcons as you watch practice today?
PK: I think one of the interesting things when a new coach comes in, especially a coach particularly on one side of the ball, is that I want to see Dan Quinn's defensive personality. I really thought that there was a disconnect between the coaching staff and a lot of the players in terms of how aggressive an NFL defense should be and has to be. And I think that Dan Quinn has come in and basically said to these guys, 'we are going to be the most attacking team in football.' At least that is what he and Pete Carroll built in Seattle and I will be looking for that. It is hard to tell when you are not in mid-season, full-padded mode all the time. But, I will be looking for a lot of the aggressiveness on defense. And then, it's funny, the way the Seahawks practiced was very high-tempo, very loud. Pete Carroll was the first guy to my knowledge who always had music from the start of practice until the end. Most of the songs, I had no clue what they were, but the players seemed to love it and it seemed to make them practice a lot harder and be more involved and intense. I have always thought you know, if you put that crowd noise up in the loud speakers around practice, it accomplishes the goal of being so noisy it is hard to think, like it is during a game. But, I also think that players will like it a lot more if you are playing music that they like.
KC: There has been a lot talk across the media that the Falcons walked away with one of the best draft classes of 2015 with guys like Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Jalen Collins. What are you expecting to see from them as they adapt to Dan Quinn's defensive system?
PK: I cannot believe that Grady Jarrett was picked so far down the line. There are some fluke-like things that happen every draft. I don't think anyone can give you good reason to why a guy who was to me a mid-second or third-round pick was taken so low. People will say, well you know, 'he might not going to be a three-down player, or maybe he doesn't have enough speed to play in a lot of defense.' But, I just think that is baloney. I think he is going to be a big factor eventually for this defense. As far as the top of the draft goes, if I am Vic Beasley and I get taken by Dan Quinn and a team that has been desperate for a pass rush, you have died and gone to heaven. Plus, he stays in the south, he is in familiar surroundings and he is with fans that already love him. It is the perfect spot for him. I think this is going to be a really good comeback draft class for Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons.
KC: In your offseason power rankings released in June, you have the Falcons ranked third in the NFC South, behind New Orleans and Carolina. What in your opinion needs to happen for the Falcons to get back to dominating this division and getting back on top of that list?
PK: Defensive attitude more than anything else. People like Justin Durant to come back from being hurt at the end of last year in Dallas, and new acquisitions injecting new life to this team. That is what needs to happen more than anything else. It can happen and I don't know who to like in this division. I can see any of the three teams winning the division. I could see the Falcons being 6-10, I could see them being 12-4. This is a very strange division because so many teams are sort of teetering on the edge. The Saints, it seems to me, might have one more year left. Where as Carolina is the first team in the history of this division to have won back-to-back division titles. Which is one of the weirdest stats you can imagine. But, then again they win it with a lousy record last year so you don't know if that is really meaningful or not. I think it is totally up for grabs. I don't love any team in this division and I think any of the teams could win it.
KC: Kyle Shanahan is implementing a zone-blocking scheme here in Atlanta. Do you think this bodes well with the current players on the roster?
PK: To be a zone-blocking scheme on an offensive line, you have to have really smart players, and I do think they have a very intelligent group on that line. So, I think that it is going to work. I think what is really important when you do zone-blocking is that everyone gets on the same page. In the course of time, a lot of times when you are looking at the way zone-blocking works, you sometimes look at that and say, 'well just be aggressive and go knock a guy off the ball.' It is a different way of learning how to play the line. And it's going to take some time; there is no question. Training camp is probably the most important position group to learn that is the offensive line. But, look they have time. I think Kyle Shanahan gets the teaching gene from his father. I think he is a very, very good teacher. I think they will be able to learn it and I think it is good for this good. A quarterback's best friend is the running game. I think it's most important that they create the kind of holes that didn't exist last year. They have the ability to run, they have the talent to be able to run. Zone-blocking is one of these classic things. If you have four guys who play a particular play perfectly and one who doesn't, you could get killed on the play - the running back or the quarterback. I think that is why it's an important next month for this team.
KC: Lastly, what are you most excited to see from the 2015 Falcons?
PK: The music selection. I just love coming to a place where there is a new coach because you want to see the new vibe. (Quinn) brings in O'Brien Schofield from Seattle. Schofield is really sort-of a Swiss army knife type of player. He plays about nine different positions and*plays all over the map. I just like seeing the changes that a new coach brings in. It's fun to watch, particularly this year because, look, you don't want to waste the prime of Matt Ryan's career. You don't want to waste another possible great year and tandem from Roddy White and Julio Jones. I mean, receivers don't last forever. They have invested a lot to make (Roddy) White and (Julio) Jones the tandem for five, six, seven years. They have sort of wasted two of those years, so now, this is really an important year *just from the standpoint you think there is enough talent here, and you think this team is a 13-3, 11-5, 12-4 type team, but the last two years haven't shown that. So at some point, it is the old, you are what your record says you are. So I think this whole summer is about proving they are what they were in 2012 and not what they have been the last couple of years.