Q: How different is it preparing for the next three quarterbacks – Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton and Drew Brees – compared to the first three you prepared for?
BB: I think each team has its own unique challenges. Every team has good players, every team has guys you have to prepare for that are all different. Preparing for Atlanta is different than preparing for anybody else, just like the teams we played were different than anybody else. He’s very good. He does a good job with his pre-snap reads, he uses all of his weapons – running backs, tight ends, receivers. I wouldn’t say he’s a big scrambler, but he can run and he can hurt you scrambling if you give him the opportunity so you have to be cognizant of that. But he doesn’t have many bad plays, he has a lot of good ones. He’s a real good quarterback.
Q: Offensively you keep stressing you have a long way to go, but how do you feel about your defense?
BB: I feel like that about the whole team. It’s September. We still have a long way to go, a lot of things we can improve on individually, fundamentally, in units, collectively as offense, defense, special teams units and as an entire team. That’s coaches, players, all of us. I think as a coaching staff, you’re trying to maximize your talent, your players, your scheme and we’re going through that process too. There are some things that we found out over the first three weeks that we would do a little bit differently knowing what we know now that we didn’t know then and I’m sure that will be true in some of the succeeding weeks. That’s part of our job too, is to figure out what’s best for this team, not some other team but this group of players and what’s our best chance to put together a good team that can win. That’s what we’re trying to do. I think that’s incumbent on all of us. It’s not limited to any individual, any group or any unit. It’s the entire football team. There’s a lot of room for improvement. We need to keep working hard and gain ground on that. That’s what we’re trying to do every day.
Q: What do you see today that Matt Ryan has improved on since he’s been in the league?
BB: He looks pretty good at everything to me. He has a good touch, he does a good job throwing the ball down the field, reads coverages well, doesn’t make many mistakes, manages the game well, he’s accurate, he’s tough, he’ll definitely stand in there, throw the ball and take a hit. He has very few bad plays, let’s put it that way, very few. So, consistency. I think that’s the mark of any great player. He’s pretty consistent: every play, every game, every series. He does a lot of things right.
Q: Outside of their commitment to run the ball last week, what did you notice differently without Steven Jackson with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling in there?
BB: It looks like whichever back is in there is productive. Snelling did a real good job for them; had a big play on that short pass out in the flat, broke three or four tackles, went for 30, 35 yards, whatever it was. Rodgers is an excellent runner and he’s good in the passing game too. He’s a hard guy to tackle, he’s quick, he makes a lot of people miss. He has good balance, he gets hit – he had a couple times where he got hit behind the line and still made yards. Kickoff returner, so he’s got good vision. I think their backs, they’ve got good depth at that position.
Q: How much of a steady progression have you seen with
BB: He’s definitely made progress.
Q: You upgraded him from doubtful to questionable last week. What kind of steps have you seen him take recently?
BB: Just doing better; football conditioning.
Q: Is there a strength element of it for someone like him with an arm injury and a back injury so that’s a lot of time away from being able to lift weights?
BB: Like any player that’s not able to do some things, they do what they can do. The things they can’t do, they can’t do. Things they can do, they can do. Hardly anybody has a full body injury. If they have an injury in one part of the body, they can still train other parts of the body. If that’s the part of the body that’s injured, that’s the part that needs to be rehabilitated. But that’s a medical thing, it’s not a coaching thing, I don’t really have anything to do with that.
Q: From a playing standpoint, do you feel like his strength is in a good place?
BB: It’s better than what it was.
Q: He’s been a big part of your red zone offense in the past and you’re currently ranked 32nd in that category. If he were to return, what kind of boost can he give that red zone offense?
BB: I don’t know. We’ll see, I don’t know.
Q: What specific improvements would you like to see overall in the red zone execution?
BB: Number one, not turning the ball over. That would be number one.
Q: Any update on whether
BB: Nope. We’ll go out to practice and give you the practice participation report after we see where everybody is today. I’m not sure exactly where we all are. We’ll find out.
Q: Are the Falcons primarily three receivers on offense?
BB: There’s certainly some of that, but no, I wouldn’t say primarily. No more than half. There’s plenty of two backs and plenty of two tight ends and one back.
Q: On Sunday on fourth down, you had the offense set up like they were running a play and then sprint off and the punt team came on. What was the thinking behind that?
BB: We decided to punt. We sent the punt team out there.
Q: But the tactic. Did you practice that or anything?
BB: It was a fourth-and-short situation. We had decent field position. We thought about going for it but we decided to punt it.
Q: What have you noticed from Osi Umenyiora being with a new team and new system? What is different than when you prepared for him with the Giants?
BB: They usually flip him, they usually put him on the weak side of the formation. He’s not always in the same spot. Both tackles would have to block him, or tight ends, whoever you keep in over there. Drop him off into coverage a little bit, the Giants did some of that in their blitz zones too, but I don’t know if Atlanta is doing more of it or not, but he did that with them too.
Q: How about Asante Samuel – what do you see from him in terms of whether he’s playing at the same high level that you remember from the past?
BB: He hasn’t really played a whole lot. He played in the Baltimore game. They had a tipped ball, he returned that for 30 yards or for whatever it was. Then he missed some time in preseason then he only played a few plays against St. Louis, then he played last week, so last week was really his first week back. He’s still, I think, similar to the player that we saw here. Quick, very instinctive, good ball skills, pretty good pass defender.
Q: You haven’t seen Tony Gonzalez a ton over the years but does he look like a 37-year old tight end when he’s out there or is he still at a very high level?
BB: He’s not an every down player for them like you know, say he was with Kansas City. He’s in there a decent amount and certainly in there situationally – third down, red area, two-minute situations, he’ll be in then and then he’ll be in there at other times. You can’t count on him being in there but he’s going to be in there too. You can’t count on him not being in there either. It’s just a question of how they decide to package their personnel groupings. He’s still very instinctive in the passing game, he knows how to get open, he has good size and he’s a tough guy to match up on because of his size, his catching skills, his athleticism. No matter who you put on him, it’s hard to find the right guy. He muscles the smaller guys and out-quicks and out-maneuvers the bigger guys. So basically it’s a tough matchup on him, as it has been for his entire career. He’s got a great catch radius. Wherever the defender is, there’s somewhere you can put the ball that he can catch it that the defender can’t get it. Ryan can do that, he’s very accurate. He’s a tough guy to cover. He does a good job for them.
Q: What do you see in Julio Jones and what will the challenges be in preparing for him?
BB: Julio does, I’d say, pretty much everything well. He’s a very strong, physical receiver with good speed. In the running game, he’s a very aggressive blocker. He’ll come in and crack safeties and block well. In the passing game, he can go down the field, he can go up and take the ball away from defenders even though he’s covered. He has good vertical jump, timing, strong hands, go up and get the ball. Tough guy to press because he’s so physical coming off the line of scrimmage. He can run through most corners that are trying to press him. He’s a strong runner after the catch so they throw him a lot of short passes, under routes, tear screens, things like that. He’s strong to break tackles. He can take a two-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard run or he could run a 50-yard go route and go up and catch the ball, either way. He’s a tough guy to match up against. He’s got very good speed so he can run by the defense but he’s strong and he can run through them too. He’s tough and he’s a hard guy to tackle. He does everything well.
Q: How much do they play up-tempo on offense?
BB: I’d say they haven’t done a lot of it this year on film, at least it doesn’t appear like they have. Games that we’ve seen, it doesn’t, but we know they have it, we know they can do it. They, I’d say, probably did more of it last year. Certainly it’s something we have to prepare for. We know they have it. But it hasn’t been something, it looks like, they’ve emphasized a lot to this point this season. They switch their personnel groups around quite a bit. They use two backs and one tight end, one back and two tight ends. Sometimes they use an offensive lineman at tight end in addition to their three-receiver sets. It seems like they’ve done more of that this year but we know that could change from game to game. They’re very experienced with it and they have a quarterback that can obviously do it well. It’s something that we have to be ready for because they’ve had a lot of success with it in the past. But they’ve had a lot of success moving the ball and scoring points doing what they’re doing. They’re probably going to be pretty successful doing whatever they do because they’re pretty good on offense.