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Falcons' Dan Quinn sharpening up when evaluating offensive players
Jan 28, 2016
ESPN Staff Writer
MOBILE, Ala. -- The defensive linemen are the easy part, considering Dan Quinn's background as a defensive lineman, defensive line coach and pass-rush expert.
When it comes to evaluating players on offense, the Atlanta Falcons head coach isn't ashamed to admit he still has to sharpen his skills.
"I've seen those positions because I've coached against them, but that probably was the area where I was still continuing to grow," said Quinn, who just completed his first year as a head coach. "Like me, looking at quarterbacks. For my whole career, that's the dude I was trying to get (down). I wasn't looking sometimes at the mechanics and where he was throwing. So, it's learning that part of it."
Dan Quinn is learning on the job when it comes to the offensive side of things. AP Photo/John Bazemore
Quinn, who has final say over the Falcons' 53-man roster, drafted running back Tevin Coleman (third round), wide receiver Justin Hardy (fourth), and offensive tackle Jake Rodgers (seventh) in his first draft, while the offensive free-agent additions included tight end Jacob Tamme, right guard Chris Chester, guard/center Mike Person, wide receivers Leonard Hankerson and Nick Williams, center Gino Gradkowski and tackle Jake Long. The Falcons also traded for left guard Andy Levitre. Hankerson and Rodgers are no longer with the team, while Chester and Long are bound for free agency.
"I was probably most familiar with offensive line play because it's an area, by the nature of what I've done, scouted," Quinn said. "With running backs, I found out that there's not like a size, speed, or traditional (back). They come in all sorts of good sizes. They can be shorter dudes, taller dudes, big dudes. It's not like, `He should be 5-11, 220.' It's who can have unique stuff, who can make yards after contact, who can catch. Those are some of the things I learned the most.
"But receivers is probably the one that I'm still growing in that spot."
Quinn's admission would be a reason to pause if the Falcons didn't possess a top talent in Julio Jones. Remember, the Falcons also have a new wide receivers coach in Raheem Morris whose background is defensive backs, so scouting wide receivers isn't Morris' specialty, either.
"The good news is, I've got good experience on the staff at that spot," Quinn noted. " (Offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) has coached that spot, so he has a big background. That's one of (GM) Thomas (Dimitroff's) strengths.
"Even if you're an evaluator for everything, there are still things you have a strength at. So for the next 30 years I'm going to be coaching, I'll always have a spot like, `Let me see that D-line.' That's just natural. I think there are a number of guys on the staff who have the (offensive) background. And Raheem, because of his background as a head coach, had more experience on the offensive side than people probably know."
We'll see how that all translates as Quinn and the Falcons prepare to bolster their roster. Wide receiver should be an emphasis, perhaps the next priority after acquiring a play-making linebacker or pass-rusher. Ohio State's Braxton Miller, a projected second- or third-rounder who has been the buzz of the Senior Bowl, lit up when talking about the possibility of teaming up with Jones in Atlanta. Maybe the Falcons feel the same way about Miller, who could thrive out of the slot.
The Falcons also need interior offensive linemen, although Gradkowski might get the first crack at securing the starting center spot. A pass-catching tight end wouldn't be a bad idea, either, and ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. believes the Falcons should take a long look at Arkansas' Hunter Henry if he's available in the second round.
Quinn said the Falcons also will look hard at a backup quarterback for Matt Ryan. He explained the qualities he's looking for in such a player.
"We're still going to look, for sure we are," Quinn said. "I think the whole thing, it's not just the arm strength. It's like, `Damn, this guy better be tough.' As I go through the list of it, is it the film? Yeah, but it's so much more than just the tape.
"It's the leadership, the toughness, and a guy who has a go-for-it mentality. Do you have to have the physical stuff? Hell yeah you do. But at that position, when you dig in and find out about guys, that's where you find the best fits for your team. It's, `What else does he got?' It's not just film."
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