Straight from the Beek

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Questions about the Falcons defense, possible offseason changes, Duke Riley, NFL Draft, more 

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This is it, Falcons fans. This is the final Straight from the ’Beek during the 2018 regular season. From here on in all of your questions will be about the offseason – personnel changes, possible coaching changes, free agency and the draft. But right now, the Falcons are looking to close it out with a road win at Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are 5-10 and the Falcons are 6-9 – and you have lots of questions in the meantime. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.

And we’re off.

Nick from Macon, GA
Beek. I admire your work; your opinions are often logical. My question is, what do you think about the team possibly exploring a 3-4 defense? I’m not saying to overhaul the 4-3 entirely. In my opinion, an effective 4-3 defense is easier to field personnel-wise but a 3-4 needs a specialized edge rusher who can play standing up (we could try Vic Beasley there if we bring him back), a nose tackle that can eat blocks (Grady Jarrett) and a MLB that can play man (Deion Jones). Do you think this is a scheme the team could possibly explore next season?

Matt: Thanks, Nick. Appreciate that. I suppose anything is possible, but I really don’t see that happening. Dan Quinn believes in his scheme and has had tremendous success with it. It’s his calling card and I don’t think he’ll overhaul it based on what transpired in 2018. Quinn’s defense relies on speed, execution, communication and players knowing their specific roles (fundamentals). Quinn also values versatile players he can use in a variety of ways and packages. Everyone is tired of hearing about the injuries but losing both starting safeties for the year – Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen – and then the team’s top linebacker in Deion Jones for most of the season, was a huge factor in the unit’s overall performance. No one knows right now what sort of changes the Falcons will make in the offseason, but I expect there will be some. But I’d be stunned if Quinn decided to make sweeping changes with the defensive scheme. Could he make some adjustments based on possible personnel changes during the offseason? Absolutely. Stay tuned because we’re about to find out in the coming weeks and months.

Josh from Northamptonshire, England
Hey Beek! First time ever writing in so hopefully I get put on the site! Quick info on me, life-long suffering Atlanta Falcons fan (started a few years before the Vick ‘debacle’) to show my age. Big fan of this forum – only realized it existed this year and now I check it out every day at work! Onto my question(s) that I’ll keep brief. 1) I’m not a huge DQ fan. However, I accept he probably does deserve another shot. That being said, can you imagine major changes elsewhere? Such as OC? 2) While losing multiple starters on defense would of course be troublesome, does it excuse some of the VERY poor play we have seen for the majority of the season? Tackling is a biggie! As rugby fan I just don’t understand how pro athletes missed so many tackles, but maybe I’m too harsh. 3) Finally, as someone who does not keep up to date with the college game/draft prospects except in the month or two before the draft, where do you feel we need to address most and is this draft class shaping up to be heavy in the right positions? On a personal note, while I do shake my head and disagree with just how optimistic you are at times (could just be me being too unfair), it’s a shame there have been a few personal attacks on you for doing your job, hope you will be back next year!

Matt: Glad you’re a regular here and thanks for finally writing in, Josh. I’ll answer your questions in order. First, I don’t think Dan Quinn is going anywhere. In 63 regular-season games as head coach (four seasons), Quinn is 35-28. He’s 3-2 in the postseason, which includes the Super Bowl LI appearance. This will be his first losing season in Atlanta, and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t back. As far as making changes with his coaching staff, yes, everything is on the table. Quinn has said that he’s going to evaluate every player and coach (which isn’t anything new), but no one inside the walls of the team’s headquarters is happy with the six wins and prospects of finishing 6-10 or 7-9. While the multiple season-ending injuries to key players will be taken into account, this is a bottom-line business in the end. As far as your second comment goes, I’d agree with you that the tackling was certainly an issue at times this year. And I get what you’re saying – regardless if it’s a second- or third-string player in there, they should have the fundamentals down at this level. It’s worth noting that when certain starters returned, their presence was felt immediately – and the tackling looked better. Maybe they make so many plays that they hide other “warts” … who knows. Solid point, regardless. On your last question, that’s an easy one: offensive line, defensive line (tackle and edge rusher) and cornerback. This class, fortunately, is deep when it comes to defensive line prospects, which is a good thing for the Falcons – who will be picking in the top half of the draft. And as for me … I always chuckle when people say I’m overly optimistic. I’m really not trying to be; I’m merely pointing out facts, stats, trends and try not to overreact and become a prisoner of the moment – which so many fans do. I’m the Falcons’ defense is playing poorly, I’ll say so. If a player is playing poorly, I’ll point it out – usually with statistics. I never, ever make unblanketed personal attacks. These guys are just like you and me – trying to make a living for a limited time and have families. But it’s a bottom-line business, too. And they know that. Stick to the facts and look at the big picture (the full body of work) – that’s what I try to do. As far as hoping I return next year … well, me too. Thanks, Josh!

Logan from Cedartown, GA
Hi Beek, Huge fan! This is my first time sending a question even though I read every week. Hopefully we end the season with a bang against the Bucs. Draft order matters, but not as much as pride and keeping the locker room. Anyway, my question is regarding Damontae Kazee. Dan Quinn named Rico and Neal as the two starting safeties next year, but we need to find a way to keep Kazee on the field with his ball skills. I don’t know if the answer would to be to take some snaps away from Rico, or to make a slight position change for one of them. Thoughts?

Matt: Thanks, Logan! Totally agree with you regarding Damontae Kazee. I was excited about his second year heading into training camp – he seemed so much more confident and comfortable with the system and his role. And he hasn’t disappointed at all this season. Yes, Dan Quinn did say that Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal would return to their starting positions when they’re healthy – and all indications right now are that they will be ready come camp. But Quinn did say he would find a way to get Kazee on the field with certain packages and in nickel situations. And you never know how things will shake out in training camp as well as the preseason. Maybe Kazee will continue to improve and win a job outright. He’s a playmaker and made an impact this season. He definitely took advantage of his opportunity, that’s for sure. Let’s see how he does once everyone is back. It should be super competitive, and that’s always a good thing for the team in the end.

Jimmy from Roswell, GA
Sup Beek, always enjoy reading SFTB when I’m bored. Keep putting the haters in their place lol. Anyways, a while back many people asked what you thought of Duke Riley and you said to wait till the end of the season before making any judgments, so now that we’re here, what do you think? Also, I’m wondering what notable free agents are going to be available at the guard and defensive tackle position at the end of this season. Thanks for all you do!

Matt: Thanks, Jimmy. You’re right; I did tell readers more than once to tap the brakes on passing judgment on Duke Riley earlier in the season and to wait until the end to ask me. Fair enough. Well, I think it’s pretty obvious now. Riley certainly had an up-and-down year. That coupled with rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun’s emergence pretty much spells it out, doesn’t it? I honestly thought Riley would take a major step forward this season and develop into a solid starter in this defense. He missed too many tackles and that’s something he needs to straighten up in a hurry, in my opinion, if he’s going to ever take that next step. Oluokun, the first-year player out of Yale, had a solid season and I think is only going to get better. It’s still too early to talk about free agency, Jimmy, because I’m not sure who will be re-signed and who will hit the market yet.

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Be sure to catch Matt Tabeek, D.J. Shockley and Dave Archer every Monday afternoon on Falcons Audible podcast. Listen and subscribe to it on iTunes, Google Play or watch it here on AtlantaFalcons.com.

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