FLOWERY BRANCH — The start of the Falcons training camp is 10 days away.
We’ll start our countdown by looking at the new assistant coaches. Mike Tice, Wade Harman and Bryan Cox were added to the staff this offseason.
Tice was named the offensive line coach and Harman was added as his assistant. They replaced Pat Hill and Paul Dunn. Tice is the third offensive line coach under head coach Mike Smith.
Cox was hired to replace Ray Hamilton, who was on Smith’s original staff and had also worked with him in Jacksonville.
With Mike Munchak available, Tice, 55, was a curious selection to help fix the team’s major flaw because his offensive line units have had trouble protecting the passer, too.
In his seven seasons as an offensive line coach, his unit was ranked in the top 10 in sacks allowed three times. In 2010, his Chicago Bears line led the league with 56 sacks. In 2011, his Chicago line gave up 49 sacks, fifth in the league. In 2001, his Minnesota line gave up 47 sacks, which ranked 7th in the league.
In 1998, Tice had his best pass-protecting unit with Minnesota. They gave up 25 sacks and ranked 25th in the league.
Like Smith’s other recent hires, Tice has worked with him in the past. He was assistant head coach/offense on the Jacksonville staff in 2006 and was the assistant head coach/tight ends from 2007-09, while Smith served as the defensive coordinator.
Over the offseason, the Falcons added some talent along the line when they signed right guard Jon Asamoah in free agency and drafted Jake Matthews with the sixth overall pick.
During OTAs and minicamp, Tice’s unit was on point. They were technically sound and appeared to move much better in unison.
TICE’S OFFENSIVE LINES
YEAR TEAM SACKS RANK
1997 Minnesota 33 21
1998 Minnesota 25 25
1999 Minnesota 43 12
2000 Minnesota 35 17
2001 Minnesota 47 7
2010 Chicago 56 1
2011 Chicago 49 5
Harman, 50, was on the staff of the Baltimore Ravens for the past 15 seasons in various capacities.
He served as the tight ends coach for the past six years. He was the tight ends coach and assistant offensive line coach from 1999-07. He previously spent two seasons as a coaching assistant for the Minnesota Vikings.
He was the longest tenured member of the Ravens coaching staff and was the only coach to be a part of both of Baltimore’s Super Bowl winning teams in 2000 and 2012.
Cox, 46, was the pass-rush specialist for Tampa Bay last season, but was not retained by new coach Lovie Smith.
Cox, one of the more feared linebackers in the NFL during the 1990s, retired in 2002.
Since, he’s served coaching stints with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cox has a major task.
His unit must lead the turnaround of the defense. If they Falcons continue to get pushed around up front, they’ll have a hard time improving their woeful numbers from 2014.
The defense ranked 31st against the run (135.8 yards per game). The Falcons had only 32 sacks, tied for 30th with Houston. Only Jacksonville (31) and Chicago (31) had fewer.
The defense didn’t rank in the top half of the league in major defensive category. It ranked 27th in yards allowed per game, 21st in yards passing, 27th in points per game, 32nd on third-down percentage and 25th in sacks per pass attempt.
The Falcons, in addition to drafting seven defensive players out of nine picks, added defensive tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson in free agency. Mammoth defensive end/tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, a second round pick, could contribute immediately.
Cox, a fifth-round pick out of Western Illinois in 1991, was a star for the Dolphins, the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets. He finished his 12-year career with brief stints in New England and New Orleans.
He was a three-time Pro Bowler and made the All-Pro first-team in 1992.
During the offseason, Cox demanded that his unit play with tenacity.
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
Date Practice Times (public availability)
Tuesday, July 22 Rookies report
Wednesday, July 23 Veterans report
Friday, July 25 Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)
Saturday, July 26 Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, July 27 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Monday, July 28 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Tuesday, July 29 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Wednesday, July 30 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Thursday, July 31 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Friday, August 1 “Friday Night Lights” at Archer High School (Lawrenceville)
6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)
Saturday, August 2 Practice 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, August 3 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Monday, August 4 Combined Practice w/Tennessee 3-5:30 p.m. (open to the public)
Tuesday, August 5 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Wednesday, August 6 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Thursday, August 7 Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)
Friday, August 8 Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins
7:00 p.m. ET – CW69
Saturday, August 9 Practice 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, August 10 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Monday, August 11 Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)
Tuesday, August 12 Practice 10:00 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. (open to the public)
Wednesday, August 13 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)
Thursday, August 14 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)
Friday, August 15 Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)
Saturday, August 16 Falcons at Houston Texans
8:00 p.m. ET – CW69
Sunday, August 17 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Monday, August 18 Practice 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (closed to the public)
MANDATORY MINICAMP REVIEW
THE LATEST FROM OTAS