Few coaches would look at the Philadelphia Eagles’ no-huddle offense as a desirable opening test for a defense.
New Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn insists Monday night’s game is a “terrific matchup” of speed against speed.
No huddle? No problem. That is standard fare for the new Atlanta defense rebuilt by Quinn, the former Seattle defensive coordinator, and his top assistant Richard Smith.
“We play a fast style defensively, too,” Quinn said. “We play no-huddle as well.”
Quinn said the Falcons will “attack similar to how they play” and added the matchup is “one we’ve been accustomed to through the years.”
Quinn didn’t mention that his Seattle defense shut down coach Chip Kelly’s Eagles in a 24-14 win at Philadelphia last season. The Eagles were held to nine first downs and 139 total yards.
Now Quinn is starting over. He was hired to recharge an Atlanta defense that gave up the league’s most total yards and yards passing in 2014.
The makeover began in the NFL draft. Defensive end Vic Beasley was Quinn’s first pick, and the former Clemson star will play the “Leo” position in Quinn’s 4-3 scheme. Beasley and free-agent addition Adrian Clayborn are expected to lead the pass rush.
Atlanta’s ability to put pressure on Philadelphia’s new quarterback, Sam Bradford, is crucial.
“It’s one of the most important things that we can do defensively, in terms of affecting the quarterback,” Quinn said.
Clayborn, who has played end and tackle, had two of the team’s nine sacks in the preseason.
“He has a great demeanor,” Smith said of Clayborn. “He has toughness to him. He has speed and quickness. He can play outside. He can play inside. He brings an added dimension in terms of a pass-rush specialist.”
Smith said he is eager to see what players like Beasley do with a full game to impact the pass rush, instead of the abbreviated exposure of the preseason.
“It’s a big emphasis here,” Smith said, adding he also was looking forward to the matchup against Philadelphia’s up-tempo attack.
“The entire time since we’ve been here we’ve been working against it, knowing we’d face it the first game,” Smith said.
“We’re built for speed and it’s going to be exciting to go against this style of offense.”
The defense will be without starting linebacker Brooks Reed, who is recovering from surgery for a groin injury. O’Brien Schofield, who played for Quinn the last two years in Seattle, and Kroy Biermann will fill Reed’s spot.
Among others to watch on the revamped defense are linebacker Justin Durant, Ricardo Allen, who has moved from cornerback to safety, and tackles Ra’Shede Hageman, a second-round pick in 2014, and Grady Jarrett, a rookie.
“It’s a chance to show everybody where we’re at,” Durant said.