Tim Lewis hard at work, revamping the secondary

Atlanta Falcons' Brent Grimes, left, tries to escape from New York Jets' Braylon Edwards, right, after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Falcons beat the Jets 10-7.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Atlanta Falcons' Brent Grimes, left, tries to escape from New York Jets' Braylon Edwards, right, after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Falcons beat the Jets 10-7. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith gave the assistant coaches Friday off.

They’d be grinding pretty hard and the extra day would give them a chance for a four-day weekend .

But the Falcons new secondary coach Tim Lewis, with his wife and kids still back in Seattle, went to work on his “off day.”

Lewis while with Seattle.

Lewis while with Seattle.

“I’m trying to get a chance to learn what we are doing,” Lewis said. “Jump right into it. It’s not like they are going to stop their offseason projects and teach Tim all of the defenses. No, it’s not going to work that way.”

One thing is certain, there will be some changes in the secondary under Lewis.

“We didn’t get it done, but hopefully we tweak some things, change some things, add some things, add new people . . . me being here is a change,” Lewis said. “The fact of the matter is that in this business things change all the time. We’ll make changes and make adjustments to try to get the thing right. Hopefully, I can be a part of that.”

Lewis has completed his evaluation of the defensive backs. Some will definitely be up for new roles and others will have some major competition to retain their Falcons wings.

“The players play hard,” Lewis said. “They understand the scheme. They generally and genuinely appreciate their coaches. I can see that on tape.

“I can tell that by the way that they fly around and the effort that they give is reflective of the relationships that they have with their coaches. I’m excited about being a part of that.”

He was not impressed with some of the technical aspects of their play last season.

“The secondary in particular, we can become more technically and fundamentally sound,” Lewis said. “Athletically, they’ve got a lot of skill. The corners,  three of them are not real big, but they are very fast.

Thomas DeCoud congratulates Brent Grimes, who led the team with six interceptions. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Thomas DeCoud congratulates Brent Grimes, who led the team with six interceptions. (Kathy Willens/AP)

“Then I’ve got three of them that are very big, that have different types of skills. We’ll work with that and try to upgrade the talent. Try to move people around and get them in the right position.”

Free safety Thomas DeCoud drew some light praise from his new secondary coach.

“The safeties, you had the young fellow, DeCoud, he played fairly well,” Lewis said. “William Moore was injured. I liked him coming out of Missouri. I evaluated him very high just like I did with Christopher Owens. So we have youth and experience. You’ve got smaller, faster guys. You’re got bigger, stronger guys. It’s a good mix of people.”

Lewis believes the players understand how the scheme is supposed to work.

“There were not a lot of mental errors,” Lewis said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to hone in on what it is that we are trying to get done.”

Lewis will be charged with getting better results from the secondary. The Falcons gave up 242.1 yards per game last season, which ranked 28th in the league.

“I’ve got to try to get the players that they’ve entrusted me with, to play to the best of their ability within the scheme that Brian (VanGorder) and Mike have devised,” Lewis said. “If they ask a question about how I see something, surely I’ll offer my opinion. But at the same time, I’m here to fit in, try to make it better and not necessarily impose my will on anybody.”

New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham (82) comes down with pass for a first down as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Chris Houston (23) defends in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham (82) comes down with pass for a first down as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Chris Houston (23) defends in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Lewis plans to learn the nuances of the Falcons’ defense and hit the ground running.

“I listened to how each defense was installed,” Lewis said. “I’ll write down my comments and asked questions about those defenses at a time that is good for Brian, Alvin (Reynolds) and the other coaches.”

Lewis is very familiar with the Falcons 4-3 defense. It’s basically the Steelers defense, that Marvin Lewis took to Baltimore. The one that Jack Del Rio and Smith took to Jacksonville.

Lewis worked in Pittsburgh and was the defensive coordinator there and with the New York Giants.

Lewis replaces Emmitt Thomas on the coaching staff.

“Philosophically, I’ll fall in line with what we are doing here,” Lewis said. “Brian VanGorder is the defensive coordinator and what he says is how we operate it. If he asked questions about my experiences, certainly I would share that with him. But at the same time I’m a foot soldier. I understand my role. I know what I’ve got to do.”

SOME FREE AGENCY TALK: Here’s an interview with J. Michael Moore of AtlantaFalcons.com. We chatted mostly about the upcoming free agency period.

Here’s a look at the players the Falcons will have to address on their roster.

GOING BACK TO SCHOOL: Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran will participate in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program at the Harvard Business School starting today.

Also, guard Justin Blalock, center Brett Romberg, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, and tackle Will Svitek will be participating in the program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania beginning Tuesday.

You can follow the Falcons Beat and Falcons Fan blogs on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

49 comments Add your comment

Jamaaliver

February 15th, 2010
7:59 am

Coach Lewis does not sound overly impressed by our DB’s. At all.

For the first time in a long whie, I have actual high hopes for our defense next season. If we can get him a young stud at CB for next season, I think we could see some significant improvement.

I sure hope we can afford to bring Brian Williams back, he played pretty well while healthy.

The Real Falcon

February 15th, 2010
8:11 am

Glad to see he is serious about improving our CB’s. I hope VanGorder listens to his suggestions.

florida falcon

February 15th, 2010
8:25 am

I think it’s obvious that our pass rush did not live up to their end of the deal. We went with undersized DB’s ang got torched all season. We were depending on getting a healthy pash rush (which never came)Injuries and disappearance acts did us in. I’m not saying break the bank on peppers but pass rush should be a focus point, then the secondary. Even though our rookies got hurt last year (Moore and Jerry) They are still “rookies” this season for lack of playing time last. We need a stud to help Abraham, (i’ld like to see us go after Richard Seymour) then 1 CB (Nnamdi Asi…whatever his last name is) Both from Oakland, plus a kicker (later rounds) to mold in the “Falcon Way”.

blindog

February 15th, 2010
9:12 am

Good work,D-Led,but I’m sorry,I do not need a book with a face on it and I do not twit.

SeminoleWarrior

February 15th, 2010
9:24 am

Great piece DO Led. I think that the hiring of Coach Lewis will be a key “free agency” pickup for the Falcons this season. What do you think of the prospect of Owens at LCB and Grimes at RCB going forward in 2010.

Glitchy

February 15th, 2010
9:31 am

Excelllent comments, Florida Falc. Agree that a stud DE would help, just not Peppers. Don;t think we need a kicker. I lived in Tampa when Matt Bryant was there and he’s a very good Kicker when healthy.

athdogfalcon

February 15th, 2010
9:37 am

Nice article. Good luck to coach Lewis. I still think our db’s were the victim’s of having no pass rush, which was a victim of having no one to collapse from within, i.e. Grady Jackson. We missed him more than we thought.

Chaseolla'

February 15th, 2010
9:45 am

Good article, D-Led. I agrre we have the pieces, need to address pass rush to improve overall. Our cb’s are young and definitely need to be coached up on technique, paticuarly Houston who never turns his head around when the ball is in the air. #1 coach Sidbury and rotate w/ free agent De. #2 Get a mmammoth in the middle and rotate w/ Jerry who hopefully stay healthy, Kicker and Rb will work in draft

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 15th, 2010
10:06 am

Thanks everyone for the kind words.

I have some more background on Coach Lewis to share later. For the old heads, you may remember him as a highly touted CB coming out of Pitt. (Sort of the Revis Island of his day). But a really bad neck injury ended his career with the Green Bay Packers. We’ll get that to you all later, but wanted to get you his thoughts on the secondary first.

SeminoleWarrior: Just from talking to him it seems like he wants to get bigger at corner. I think you might be able to play three safeties in some packages. Moore and Coleman deep with DeCoud in the slot as a big nickel on big receivers like New Orleans’ Colston. That’s just me thinking out loud. Nothing from Lewis on that.

Blindog: I certainly understand.

Florida Falcon and Glitchy: Coverage (until the end of the season) was a major issue. How do you explain Jason Campbell and the Redskins working the quick game so well in the second half. Rush couldn’t get there in the second half and wide receivers were open early and often.

Marcus

February 15th, 2010
10:16 am

DOL,
There aren’t many big CBs coming out this year, esp. with UVAs Ras-I Dowling returning for his SR year. most of the top-rated guys are around that 5′10″, 180 – 5′11″ 190 range.
What are realistic options?

TXDawg

February 15th, 2010
10:33 am

Florida Falcon – Seymour would be nice on the Falcons front but Nmandi isn’t available. I’ve known the Raider’s DB coach for about 27 years and trust me….he is in Al Davis’ ear about keeping Nmandi in Oakland.

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 15th, 2010
10:39 am

Good one, D.O.! I can’t help but to agree with all the comments, thus far. I do think Lewis brings a world of experience to the team. It impressed me that his credentials include a DC position with the championship defense of Pittsburgh. What’s even more impressive is that he understands the weakness of our defensive backfield.. We have the pieces; We just need to put the puzzle together. (Psst: BVG ought to have taken that job at UGA).

SW, I think there is a consensus that Owens is most effective at LCB. If that is true, then leave him there and shop for a true RCB. Grimes is a nickel back, exclusively, at best. I love his heart, too, but the guy is just too short for the superstars in this league. We just cannot afford to trade one interception per game for giving up 100 yards per game. I like Wilson, Robinson and Cox in the draft. In Free Agency, I like Robinson (Houston) and Brian Williams; however, Williams may be a liability, more than an asset. I’ve had a torn ACL (and MCL) and the recovery can be mind-altering. Still, he played well before the injury…

I can’t help but to agree with most, especially florida falcon, plug the middle. The only Gravy Jackson look-alike, with experience, on the market is Vince Wilfork; although Richard Seymour’s play is very attractive and can play the middle too. A Wilfork up the middle can allow us to gamble in the secondary. If you shut down an offense’s pass attack and make them one-dimensional (running), the defense has a better chance of success.

Sean ’spoon in the first round; and find a starting RCB. How is Spencer Adkins doing?

J-ROD

February 15th, 2010
11:19 am

Houston is good, just need to install a swivel on his head.

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 15th, 2010
11:22 am

On second thought, I change my mind about Vince Wilfork. I think Richard Seymour is the most attractive free agent we need to pursue. He’s big. He’s a pro-bowler. He’s versatile. He can play tackle and end (pro-bowl style). He’d make an attractive marriage with Hip Hip Peria. He’s a bulldog. He’ll come cheap. He’ll improve the pass rush. Bring him home!

WAK

February 15th, 2010
11:38 am

The Falcons have a secondary coach, Tim Lewis, and a defensive backs coach, Alvin Reynolds. Knowing coaching titles don’t mean much in the NFL, what is the difference in their roles?

[...] ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION Analysis: Owners shouldn’t really look DeCoud’s way in IDP leagues. He [...]

[...] ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION Analysis: Owners shouldn’t really look DeCoud’s way in IDP leagues. He [...]

bigstack19

February 15th, 2010
12:59 pm

I am interested in seeing Lewis put his stamp on our Cornerbacks in particular. We do need to get bigger at the position. I thought DeCoud should have been in the Pro Bowl. If he played for the Eagles he would have been. As for free agents, other than Turner, T.D. has shown a desire to build through the draft which I think he has done well so far. I said it last year, but I think Owens will be the steal of the 2009 draft. The top two picks were hurt. If healthy they will both be fine. Let him build through the draft and not add these over-priced free agents. I like Seymour too, but there is a reason New England dumped him off to Oakland. Let him go somewhere else.

[...] original here: Tim Lewis hard at work, revamping the secondary | Atlanta Falcons … Share and [...]

Sonny Clusters

February 15th, 2010
1:43 pm

Big and tall is us. We could play some defense and reach up and swat the ball away from receivers – but we could not jump. Clusters just can’t jump. Blinding speed and the ability to snatch the ball from the air with one hand makes up for our inability to jump. We was thinking Chris Houston must be gone with this new coach in place because Houston defies everything a coach would teach you about positioning and reacting to the ball. If we was a Falcons player we would look for the ball when we got downfield with the receiver.

cutter

February 15th, 2010
1:56 pm

I did not realize Richard Seymour had agreed to sign with Atlanta for a cheap price.

Paddy

February 15th, 2010
2:12 pm

Lewis’s enthusiasm about the Falcon secondary is about right. He has his work cut out for him.

ATLJBO

February 15th, 2010
3:17 pm

D-Led… Awesome job…… I really want to see what CB we will add… I def think we need to find a #1 CB… I like Owens on the other island and i think Grimes could be a really really good NB

D-Led… Check out my Thomas Decoud highlight video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uIGSDghH5Q

SeminoleWarrior

February 15th, 2010
4:06 pm

Stirg, Owens is a very effective RCB no doubt about that. And I think that Grimes provides quality at the nickel as well as depth.

You know I am on the Wilfork train. I even read, courtesy of the Pewter Report, that DT Ryan Sims of the Bucs may be released. And if Seymour is there, either of the three would be a nice addition to the DL.

D-Led, what do you think of Sims and have you seen the Pewter Report about his possible release. He is young, a biggie (6′4″ 315), would definately contain the inside while allowing Babs and Jerry to move around. Heck, it may even allow us to move Babs outside to DE.

Stirg, I’ve been on the Weatherspoon wagon since last season as you know. He tops my draft board hands down…that WLB position has got to be improved upon immediately.

As far as Atkins, he provides great depth and special teams play. He still needs some time but his upside and special team value makes him a keeper for now.

SeminoleWarrior

February 15th, 2010
4:10 pm

D Led..great piece with J-Mike on the web. You two guys are great and the Birds are lucky to have you both on the beat.

I like the potential that DeCoud could bring. And I think that Coach Lewis could envision him as the “big” CB. He (DeCoud) has the skills for it. I think he and Owens could make a very good tandem in time.

I still like the heart of the little fellow, Brent Grimes. If for nothing else, keep him for nickel packages and depth. He has that relentless “it” factor. And if technique is an issue with Chris Houston, then it seems that Coach Lewis and Coach Reynolds are just the right men for the job to get him (Houston) back on track.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

Stirg: Peria Jerry is supposed to be back and be that push the middle person. Adkins did well down the stretch. Was doing a good job in the classroom from what I understand. Also, he was learning both outside LB spots. He definitely showed that he can hit while on special teams late in the season.

WAK: Lewis is more of the secondary coordinator. While Reynolds had the safeties last season and Joe Dana I believe had the CBs. They don’t call him a coordinator because they’d have to pay him more money.

ATLJBO: I will check out the video tonight.

SEMINOLEWARRIOR: I’ll check on Ryan Sims. (Nobody is getting rid of good football players.) Thanks for your comments about the piece with J. Mike on the Falcons site. He’s super!!!

cwltank

February 15th, 2010
5:02 pm

our corners are great, Emmitt Thomas just played too much zone last year he has passed his prime old school is out its new school time lol grimes can play the slot and Owens is the best they have Houston is a good corner cant fault him for the bad coverage assignments The coaching staff did not match too much zone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want Porter to sign with the Falcons

florida falcon

February 15th, 2010
5:21 pm

@TXDAWG- The Nnamdi at corner is wishful thinking on my part. Although I don’t have your connection ( the coach in Oaktown) It’s true that Al Davis is in love with cornerbacks like Nnamdi. We just need 1 solid corner (not necessarily a Deion type) But Definately Seymour is available and has more than enough gas left in his tank. Willfork is interesting for plugging the middle. Just imagine such a stout line, that would lessen our weaknesses out on the edges. Dammit is it August yet! I’m so ready for football!

florida falcon

February 15th, 2010
5:23 pm

My last post looks like I’m starting Seymour as a DB. I know Seymour is a DE. (If anyone cares)

D Money

February 15th, 2010
6:49 pm

For those people who keep saying that Houston is a good CB, I have no idea what games you’ve been watching. The CBs did much better without him at the end of the year. Houston, hopefully, played his last game with the Falcons. Why not look at someone like Bodden? Plug him in as RCB with Owens on the left and Grimes as the Nickle. I think we should pick up a FA corner and DE [Bodden(CB) and Kampman (DE)]and use the draft to build the team with younger players so that 2 years down the line we won’t drop off again.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 15th, 2010
7:07 pm

I wonder if Coach Lewis can save Tye Hill’s career? He’s not been mentioned in the discussion.

FalconHeroZero

February 15th, 2010
7:31 pm

What? They haven’t released anyone by now?

rrrrbebbtQBtt

February 15th, 2010
7:32 pm

Enter your comments here

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 15th, 2010
8:04 pm

Good question, D.O.. Hill, actually, is an impressive athlete. Like I mentioned earlier about Williams, recovering from a serious knee injury is mind-altering. With some reps, therapy and a little push, I think Coach Lewis can revive Tye Hill’s career. You used the word “save” and I really don’t think Hill’s career is at threat. I simply believe that he needs to recover, physically and mentally, from the tear in his knee. Boi, if we can get Williams, Hill and Jerry back to 100%, we can be very liberal in the draft and free agency. With Owens starting and your three-safety backfield, D.O., we have Williams, Hill, Jackson, Houston and Grimes competing for RCB. I don’t think there is a cornerback in the draft that can compete, as a rookie, and start in front all of them players. Therefore, it would be senseless to draft cornerback at 19 or 20. I agree with Ken Strickland’s earlier post, we’ve addressed our defensive line in the last three drafts (Jerry, Sidbury, BeerMan, etc.). Again, it would be senseless to draft a player that is not going to start in front of what we already have. With the process of elimination, that leaves our greatest need: WILL. I’ve been hearing great things about Spencer Adkins but if he’s that good to be starting next season, he would have been that good to start last season. I just don’t see Adkins coming in and making the impact that an eventual Sean ’spoon would make. Draft ’spoon in first round (if available) and pursue Richard Seymour in free agency. That takes care of our defensive needs.

D.O., I really like your idea about a three-safety backfield and DeCoud would be perfect for the position.

falcon21

February 15th, 2010
8:12 pm

Nice work DOL as always, I think Lewis will be a great pickup for our Birds and I think he will help Houston turn the corner. Houston can stay with any WR in the league stride for stride and I think Lewis can help him get to the next level as a dominating cover corner. As for Tye Hill, I think he may be the odd man out.

Greg

February 15th, 2010
8:20 pm

Some of the best CBs in the NFL are not tall. Revis is 5′11″. Champ Bailey is 5′11″. Asante Samuel is 5′10″. Even Charles Woodson is only 6′1″. My point is that height is not the crucial factor. Now, if you have a 5′9″ CB going up against Colston, then, true, you have a lot to overcome. No matter how gifted an athlete Brent Grimes is, no matter how disciplined and technically correct, Colston is going to beat him up 80+% of the time. But if Brian Williams (5′11″) is healthy and is concentrating, I call it 50-50 with Colston, because Williams is quicker. We need help in the secondary…don’t get me wrong, but height isn’t the key factor. Aggressiveness and quickness, with a floor of about 5′11″, is the target.

Bill

February 15th, 2010
8:52 pm

Good job Orlando, keep the news coming.

Pete

February 15th, 2010
9:57 pm

Lewis sounds like a serious, experienced coach who will give it 100%. I hope he can offer new and unique input.

Stan

February 15th, 2010
9:59 pm

I love my birds and I am happy with the direction…but is it me…or why did we hire a DB coach from a team whose secondary was worse than ours last year in every major category?

[...] Check Out DOL’s Masterful Blog on Birds New Secondary Coach Tim Lewis [...]

Big Ray

February 16th, 2010
1:39 am

Sounds to me like Tim Lewis knows there is a lot of work to be done in the secondary, and is more than prepared to do it.

I have been holding out hope for William Moore, and am still convinced that he will be something special when he’s healthy. Now if only we can keep him that way. Decoud is rangy and mentally tough. But we’re going to need Moore out there. Owens and Grimes may be able to get the job done when their techniques improve. Both guys have the skills. I wonder if Lewis can get anything out of Chris Houston? Can he teach him to turn his freakin’ head?

Nice blog, D-Led .

Big Ray

February 16th, 2010
1:45 am

Another thing. Just because Seattle’s secondary was crappy, doesn’t mean Tim Lewis is a bad pickup. There are two other major factors to consider:

1) The kind of personnel Seattle had. It doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are. If the talent isn’t there, you can’t make paradise out of poop.

2) Coaching philosophy. The defensive coordinator on each team devises the overall schemes. However, sometimes said coordinator is just a figurehead, and the head coach is calling all the shots. In which case, a secondary coach has little choice other than to follow the leader, as it were. Listen to what Lewis is saying. He knows his role, calling himself a foot soldier. At the same time, he’s saying that he will lend his opinion if asked. You can’t ask for a better balance. Obviously, Lewis has been there before. As in, he has played the role of foot soldier who doesn’t ask questions, only executes orders. But, he does have an educated, qualified opinion, and will voice it if given the chance.

I say we give HIM a chance.

O'Brien

February 16th, 2010
7:44 am

Big Ray,

I didnt realize I was on the Fan’s Nest. Oh, this is the Falcons blog? My bad.

I think Lewis is a good pickup for the Falcons. He has some defensive coordinator experience, but he knows his role, and is already hard at work.

Think about it. His wife and kids are all the way in Seattle, he has a 4 day weekend, but what is he doing? Studying film down here. I like his work ethic so far, and I look forward to seeing what he can do with our secondary.

D-Led,

Hopefully, Moore can stay healthy. Sam Baker was injured at USC, and he’s been a good player for us…when healthy. These guys need to be healthy to produce what Dimitroff thinks they are capable of.

ELVISINTHEHOUSE.

February 16th, 2010
9:53 am

The best move the falcons can make that nobody have not even thought about is put grimes at saftey opposite decoud and turn him loose.he’s a ball hawker and will see the field more,he would’nt really have to worry about his size playing safety.I picture him playing like a bob sanders type of player at the safety position.Me personally,i think it will work with a fighsty short player with a big heart speaking of grimes.maybe coach lewis have that same vision him speaking of having the pieces to the puzzle but putting them together.

vafalconfan

February 16th, 2010
10:37 am

Nice blog. However, if you read between the lines it sounds like Lewis is not completely sold on the scheme. Maybe it’s the lack of blitzing he’s seen on film?.. I don’t know, but it sounds like Lewis is eager to give his input on this soft scheme that VanGorder runs..

Rich Mckay

February 16th, 2010
10:39 am

D- you said no one is getting rid of good players? We got Williams last year after he was cut and he was our best DB before he was injured. Come on Man!

Row 3

February 16th, 2010
11:11 am

Musgrave promoted to assistant head coach, that should keep him around awhile.

Jim

July 5th, 2010
4:10 am

In Georgia sports there is always a need for a atlanta chiropractor.

[...] technique. I believe that new assistant secondary coach Tim Lewis was indicating this when he was interviewed by the AJC back in February and talked specifically about improving these things. If Lewis is successful at getting these [...]