Dan Quinn: What needs to happen in year two in Atlanta?


Dan Quinn became head coach of the Atlanta Falcons a year ago today. What does he need to do in year two to get the Falcons back in the NFC Playoffs?

The 2015 Atlanta Falcons finished 8-8 in the first year under head coach Dan Quinn. While Atlanta won more games than it had in three seasons, Atlanta still failed to post a winning record for the third straight season, thus missing the NFC Playoffs again for the third year in a row.

While there were plenty of positives that came from Dan Quinn’s first year in Flowery Branch including an improved running game, a top five offensive line in football, and a top half defense, where will Quinn need to improve his Atlanta Falcons in his second season as head coach in 2016?

We’ll start with the defensive side of the football, as Dan Quinn is a former defensive line coach and an NFL defensive coordinator. It seems that Quinn got more out of his defense than he probably should have in 2015. Its most talented area was certainly in the secondary, sending third year shutdown cornerback Desmond Trufant to his first Pro Bowl. Safety needs a little work, but the defensive backfield should stand as the Atlanta Falcons’ best area of their defense again in 2016.

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The linebacking corps did the best job of out playing its perceived talent level. Though free agent signee Brooks Reed was a massive disappointment in 2015, Justin Durant, O’Brien Schofield, and Paul Worrilow shined in crucial third down situations in helping get the Falcons off the field more than they did in 2014’s confusing Mike Nolan defense.

Quinn will need to heavily consult with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his scouting department about what type of players the Falcons need to improve their most talent deficient position group in their linebackers through either free agency and/or the 2016 NFL Draft.

On defense, Quinn absolutely has to figure out how to generate a pass rush from his defensive line in 2016. Atlanta really hasn’t had one in going four or five years. It’s the sacks that are most disturbing, but the perceived lack of disruption opposing quarterbacks deal with when they face the Atlanta Falcons.

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Surely Quinn will tweak his roster in the pass rushing department to find better scheme fits in his 4-3 Under base defense this offseason. Regardless of the moves the Falcons make with their pass rushers, we will need to see drastic improvement in the team’s weakest area of their defense. Most of this pressure falls on Dan Quinn in 2016.

While the team and particularly starting quarterback Matt Ryan should improve in the second year of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast system, Quinn’s biggest concern with the offense has to do with finding secondary and tertiary receiving options besides All-Pro wideout Julio Jones. The receiving corps will have a new coach in former defensive passing game coordinator Raheem Morris.

Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme did wonders to both the running game and the offensive line, but clean exchanges under center with the quarterback, passing progressions, and red zone efficiency need improvement on the offensive side of the ball in 2016 in Atlanta.

The special teams did a fine job dealing with injuries to its two best players in return man Devin Hester and kicker Matt Bryant. Keith Armstrong remains as one of the best special teams coordinators in the business and will a better bill of health in 2016, the Falcons should do well on special teams without any significant overhauling from the front office.

As a head coach, Dan Quinn needs to improve in three areas in his second season with the Atlanta Falcons: playing better in NFC South play, not having to play from behind in games, and making adjustments from game to game.

Atlanta cannot finish 1-5 in the NFC South again under Dan Quinn. The Falcons proved that they could win games at the end, but playing catchup in close games can become exhausting over a 16-game NFL season. The Falcons were consistently inconsistent. When it was good, it was great, but Quinn needs to avoid another six-game losing streak in 2016.

Surely, Dan Quinn learned so much in his first season as a rookie head coach in 2015 with the Atlanta Falcons. Even despite a six-game losing streak, the Atlanta Falcons finished with the seventh best record in the NFC in 2015. The 2016 season schedule will intensify for Atlanta, but expect Quinn and his staff to improve in their second year together.

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Continuity will stand as a major reason for the 2016 Atlanta Falcons’ successes or failures as a football team, as all but one coach (Terry Robiskie, now the offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans) will stay on Dan Quinn’s staff in 2016. For a second-year head coach, Dan Quinn will face greater expectations than he had in 2015. Despite a tougher schedule, Atlanta will have to again contend for a playoff spot in 2016 or expect changes coming in the front office next offseason.