The Falcons’ new head coach left the league’s most talented defense to take over its worst. And if his new team expects a quick turnaround for the 32nd-ranked unit, the 2015 season will likely mark a massive letdown.
Quinn’s Seattle defenses, which allowed the fewest yards in the league in 2013 and 2014, were not overly exotic schematically. But the Seahawks’ star-studded cast had perfected the system, allowing them to play a fast, attacking brand of football.
“We want to play as fast and physical as we can,” Quinn said at his introductory news conference. “For us to play that style, we won’t have a thousand different defenses. It’s not what we play; it’s how we play it.”
The Falcons also will need talented players molded to Quinn’s liking to play such a style. That will take time and, as in Seattle, a lot of roster turnover.
The makeover started in earnest this offseason. The Falcons used the eighth overall pick on dynamic pass rusher Vic Beasley and a second rounder on cornerback Jalen Collins, who should start alongside budding shutdown man Desmond Trufant.
The Falcons were active in free agency but did not make any splashy signings. Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien Schofield, who played under Quinn in Seattle, were brought into to help a punchless pass rush. Brooks Reed and Justin Durant signed on to upgrade the linebacking corps.
These small steps should improve the defense, but don’t expect Atlanta to climb out of the basement just yet. The rookies face a learning curve, and the free agent pickups are nothing more than stopgaps.
But with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and a couple of intriguing rookies on the other side of the ball, the defense doesn’t have to be great for the Falcons to compete in the NFC South.