Cover 9@9: A closer look at the defensive coordinators of the NFC South

Former Falcons coach Mike Smith is Tampa Bay's new defensive coordinator. Here shown during his days with the Falcons. defensive lines. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

Former Falcons coach Mike Smith is Tampa Bay’s new defensive coordinator. Here
shown during his days with the Falcons. defensive lines. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

1. The defensive coordinators of the NFC South. Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan believes the offense, which went 1-5 in the NFC South last season, can be much improved if they can get a handle on their turnovers.

The Falcons had 15 turnovers (five interceptions, 10 fumbles) in the six games against the division foes and were a minus-11 in takeaway ratio in those six games. They won the turnover battle against Tampa Bay, 2-1, but still lost 23-19 on Dec. 6.

In the lone win over Carolina, the takeaway battled was tied, 1-1.

Shanahan will match wits with two new coordinators in the division in Tampa Bay’s Mike Smith and New Orleans’ Dennis Allen, both former head coaches. Carolina’s Sean McDermott is the dean of the division, but must figure how to improve after losing cornerback Josh Norman.

Smith, the former Falcons head coach and winningest coach in the franchise history, returns to the game after a one-year hiatus after being dismissed after the 2014 season.

“Turnovers are going to happen,” Shanahan said. “I’m not just going to sit there and scare the whole offense out of trying to make plays. You’ve got to do what you see and let it rip.

“Sometimes, it’s a tip pass that’s tough to control. Sometimes it’s a bad snap that happens. But we definitely have to do better at that and there’s a couple of bad decisions. But the ones that we have to eliminate are the unnecessary ones and that’s the snaps and some of the forced things.”

Here’s a look at the defensive coordinators of the NFC South.

2. Mike Smith, Tampa Bay. Smith’s defenses in Jacksonville played well enough to help him land the Falcons job. He considers the nickel the team’s base defense and will utilize multiple fronts including a 3-3-5 nickel package. He has the interior presence of All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Levonte David to build around. The Bucs also added two cornerbacks in veteran Brent Grimes and rookie Vernon Hargreaves III to help their leaky pass defense.

CHARLOTTE: Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan paces the sidelines while Matt Ryan, pulled from the game, watches during the fourth quarter as the Panthers beat the Falcons 38-0 in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Charlotte. The Falcons were minus-11 in turnover ration while going 1-5 against NFC South foes. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

CHARLOTTE: Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan paces the sidelines while Matt Ryan, pulled from the game, watches during the fourth quarter as the Panthers beat the Falcons 38-0 in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Charlotte. The Falcons were minus-11 in turnover ration while going 1-5 against NFC South foes. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

3. Dennis Allen, New Orleans. He was the Raiders head coach from 2012-14 and got his NFL start with the Falcons as a quality control coach in 2002 under Dan Reeves. Allen took over the Saints defense during Week 11 of last season and Rob Ryan was displaced. Allen will launch his 4-3 base defense around linebacker Stephone Anthony, who turned in a spectacular rookie season. The Saints also signed linebacker James Laurinaitis to add some teeth to the unit. The secondary allowed a league-high 45 touchdowns in 2015 and still appears pretty shaky.

4. Sean McDermott, Carolina. The Panthers have won with a stout front-seven in their 4-3 defensive scheme. They value their defensive tackles and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly sets the tone for McDermott. After a contract dispute, the Panthers let cornerback Josh Norman leave via free agency. They play a lot of zone and will continue to count on the front seven to cover-up for the secondary. McDermott talked with Philadelphia and interviewed for head coaching openings in Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

 

5. Ryan’s jersey to get retired.  Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will have his college jersey retired by Boston College during the upcoming football season, the school announced on Tuesday.

Ryan, who holds several of the school’s passing records, will be honored during the November 18th game against Connecticut.

The school will also retire Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly’s number this upcoming season.

“Boston College is an amazing place,” Ryan said in a statement. “I am very fortunate to have had so many great memories during my college years at BC. I continue to be so fortunate with the retirement of my jersey and I am humbled that it will hang in Alumni Stadium with BC legends Doug Flutie, Mike Ruth and now Luke Kuechly.”

6. QB salary cap. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck was paid like he already won a Super Bowl or two by the Colts when they signed him to a six-year extension for $139.1 million.

While he has the highest average per year of quarterbacks at $24.5 million, his salary cap number for 2016 is the 13th highest in the league at $18.4.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has the fourth-highest salary cap number for 2016 at $23.5 million.

Here’s the top 10 quarterback salary cap numbers for 2016:

Drew Brees  $30

Eli Manning  $24.2

Ben Roethlisberger  $23.9

Matt Ryan $23.5

Joe Flacco $22.55

Matthew Stafford $22.5

Philip Rivers $21

Tony Romo $20.8

Kirk Cousins $19.9

Cam Newton $19.5

7. Ryan Cameron to co-host pregame show. The affable Ryan Cameron will join Mike Conti as a pre-game host for Atlanta Falcons games this season on 92.9/The Game.

The V-103 morning host is an Atlanta native and big sports fan who already joins various shows on occasion on the Game, which is owned by the same company CBS Radio.

Cameron, during the basketball season, has been the in-game announcer at Philips Arena for the Atlanta Hawks since 2004.

The radio host’s first appearance on the pre-game show will be August 11 for a pre-season game.

In an interview, Cameron said he was interested in doing more sports and both the Falcons and his boss Rick Caffey agreed.

8. Falcons games on YouTube. The votes have been counted.

Three historic Falcons games will be uploaded to the NFL’s official YouTube channel in August during the exhibition season.

It was no surprise that Falcons’ 1998 NFC Championship game win over Minnesota to earn their first trip to the Super Bowl found the No. 1 spot, with 29 percent of the vote.

In second place was Matt Bryant’s overtime kick during the 2012 NFC divisional round against Seattle, which earned 25 percent of the vote. That team was led by coach Mike Smith. The Falcons earned their third appearance in the NFC Championship game. Jim Mora also guided the Falcons to the NFC Championship game in 2005.

In third place was Michael Vick leading an upset win over the Packers at historic Lambeau Field during the 2002 NFC wild-card round to give Green Bay its first home playoff lost. Coach Dan Reeves led that victory.

The dates of when the games will be posted has not been released.

9. Depth chart. Here’s the projected depth chart heading into training camp.

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester, 87 Devin Fuller, 18 Jordan Leslie

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 79 Shabaz Ahmed

C   51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 69 Jake Reed

RG 65 Chris Chester, 68 Mike Person, 64 Collin Rahrig, Michael Huey

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris, 66 Laurence Gibson

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 81 Austin Hooper, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 82 Joshua Perkins

WR Mohamed Sanu, 14 Eric Weems, 19 Aldrick Robinson, 15 Nick Williams, 7 David Glidden, 85 J.D. McKissic, 89 Daje Johnson

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 12 Sean Renfree, 4 Matt Simms

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 35 Gus Johnson, 20 Brandon Wilds

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco, 39 Will Ratelle

NICKEL DEFENSE

RDE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 50 Brooks Reed, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 71 Brandon Williams

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 94 Tyson Jackson, 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 96 Nordly Capi, 98 Cory Johnson

DT 90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joey Mbu, 74 Chris Mayes

LDE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 48 Ivan McLennan, 93 Malliciah Goodman, 52 Tyler Starr

LB 56 Sean Weatherspoon, 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 41 Philip Wheeler, 46 Torrey Green

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

RCB 25 Akeem King, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Devonte Johnson, 32 Jalen Collins (Suspended for 4 games)

NCB 23 Robert Alford, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke

LCB 21 Desmond Trufant,, 38 David Mims II, 39 Jordan Sefon

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neaseman, 34 Brian Poole

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 30 Charles Godfrey, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Damian Parms

BASE 4-3

RDE  99 Adrian Clayborn, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 71 Brandon Williams, 96 Nordly Capi

DT  77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 98 Cory Johnson

NT 97 Grady Jarrett, 94 Tyson Jackson, 92 Joey Mbu, 74 Chris Mayes

LDE  90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 93 Malliciah Goodman, 52 Tyler Starr

WLB 56 Sean Weatherspoon, 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 46 Torrey Green, 48 Ivan McLennan

MLB 55 Paul Worrilow, 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

SLB 44 Vic Beasley, 41 Philip Wheeler, 50 Brooks Reed, 91 Courtney Upshaw,

RCB 25 Akeem King, 32 Jalen Collins, 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Devonte Johnson, 38 David Mims II

LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke, 39 Jordan Sefon, 34 Brian Poole

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neaseman

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 30 Charles Godfrey, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Damian Parms

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 1 Nick Rose

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy, 7 David Glidden, 85 J.D. McKissic

PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy, 7 David Glidden, 85 J.D. McKissic

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher, 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

90-MAN ROSTER ANALYSIS — POSITION BY POSITION

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Quarterbacks

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Running backs

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Wide receivers

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Linebackers

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Specialists

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Shanahan thinks offense will change thrive with cut in turnovers

Matt Ryan’s film session with AJC columnist Jeff Schultz

Alex Mack, Falcons looks good for one another

PROJECT PASS RUSH

Dan Quinn pressing all buttons to create a pass rush

How does drafting Keanu Neal help the pass rush?

DL line coach Bryan Cox: Hageman needs to improve his play

LB coach Jeff Ulbrich: ‘Cream will rise’ at linebacker for Falcons

Defensive coordinator Richard Smith pleased with early progress of the defense

Falcons still have a spot for DT Jonathan Babineaux

Dwight Freeney 95 percent certain that he will play in 2016

Falcons working 80 percent of time on pass rush

Weatherspoon on Freeney: ‘He still has it’

FALCONS’ OFFSEASON SPOTLIGHTS

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: OG Wes Schweizter, sixth round pick

Falcons offseason spotlight: LB De’Vondre Campbell, fourth round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: TE Austin Hooper, third round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: LB Deion Jones, second round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: SS Keanu Neal, first round pick

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: DE/SLB Vic Beasley

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: DT Grady Jarrett

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: FS Robenson Therezie

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: CB Jalen Collins

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: RB Tevin Coleman

Falcons’ offseason spotlight: WR Justin Hardy


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