Falcons fire offensive, defensive line coaches
Coach Mike Smith took his first steps to help the Atlanta
Falcons return to NFL relevance, firing defensive line coach Ray
Hamilton and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn on
One day after ending a 4-12 season, Smith said the team must get
tougher to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the line.
Smith said that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, offensive
coordinator Dirk Koetter and special teams coordinator Keith
Armstrong will return next season.
The firings of Hamilton, Hill and Dunn were hardly surprising as
Atlanta’s offensive and defensive lines rarely won game-long
battles on the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times. Poor
play on the defensive line led to Atlanta entering Week 17 ranked
last in third-down efficiency, 29th in scoring and 28th in total
General manager Thomas Dimitroff lamented ”missed assessments”
on acquiring some players and letting others go and how those moves
affected the entire team.
When training camp started, neither Smith nor Dimitroff
envisioned holding a news conference to discuss anything worse than
a loss in the Super Bowl after the Falcons narrowly lost the NFC
title game last season.
But injuries to star wideout Julio Jones, left tackle Sam Baker
and defensive end Kroy Biermann were too much to overcome. Sean
Weatherspoon, supposed to be Atlanta’s only every-down linebacker,
was hurt and limited to just seven games. Receiver Roddy White and
running back Steven Jackson played injured most of the season.
”We believe we have a talented football team here and that we
need to make adjustments,” Dimitroff said, ”but I really, truly
believe we have the nucleus and the coach and the leadership to
turn this around quickly within our offseason.
Though Smith and Dimitroff wouldn’t cite specific players, they
didn’t dispute that the offensive line was a disaster.
Peter Konz was overmatched as a starting center and starting
right guard. The right tackle position remained in flux all season,
and Lamar Holmes was inconsistent at left tackle.
No discrepancy was worse than in the 21-20 season-ending home
loss to Carolina.
Ryan was sacked nine times and hit 14 others. Panthers
quarterback Cam Newton was sacked once and hit once.
Ryan, as he’s done throughout his six-year career, refused to
blame his teammates for the poor protection.
The two-time Pro Bowl QB, who signed a new five-year, $103.75
million contract last summer that guarantees $59 million, was more
disturbed about his interception that Panthers cornerback Melvin
White returned for a 3-yard touchdown.
”It’s the end of the season, and I’m healthy, but we all have
to improve,” Ryan said. ”I have to play better. We have to play
better up front. We have to play better on the outside.
Collectively, we didn’t play good enough to win.”
Atlanta’s defensive line wasn’t much better. Releasing veteran
end John Abraham last March proved to be a bad decision after he
put up big numbers for Arizona. His replacement, free agent
acquisition Osi Umenyiora, was unable to hold onto the role he
wanted as an every-down end.
But Smith and Dimitroff were proud of the performances of rookie
cornerback Desmond Trufant, a first-round draft pick, and rookie
linebacker Paul Worrilow, an undrafted free agent.
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