Q&A Smitty: Michael Turner’s load to get reduced

Mike Smith calmly asks DeAngelo Hall to take a long walk off a short pier. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mike Smith calmly asks DeAngelo Hall to take a long walk off a short pier. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

BIRDLAND – Falcons head coach Mike Smith spoke to the media at the NFC coaches breakfast at the league meetings in Orlando on Wednesday.

Smith talked about reducing Mike Turner’s work load, the new overtime rule, cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Chris Houston, defensive ends John Abraham and Jamaal Anderson, the continued improvement of quarterback Matt Ryan and having the defending Super Bowl champs in his division.

(A special thanks to the Pro Football Writer’s of America, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle and Sportsxchange.com for providing a transcript of Smith’s interview.)

Here are some excerpts for his session:

Q: What do you think about the overtime rule?

A: I’m in favor of it on a couple of fronts. It’s an improvement from the rule we had. The main reason I like the rule is it puts the onus on teams to score touchdowns. Ultimately, that’s what this game’s all about. And it keeps the sudden

New Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson on Monday, March 8, 2010. D. Orlando Ledbetter, dledbetter@ajc.com

New Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson on Monday, March 8, 2010. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

death element with it.

Q: The rule puts more pressure on coaches. Does that part bother you?

A: No, it doesn’t. It’s no different than coming down at the end of the game. There may be a few nuances we have to become familiar with, like play management.

Q: Does the rule put more pressure on you to win the game by scoring a touchdown at the end of regulation rather than kicking a field goal to force overtime?

A: When you’re the home team you play it differently at the end of the game than you do if you’re the visiting team. I think that’s already part of the formula. Who you’re playing, what players will be on the field for your team and their team.

Q: Why was Texans (cornerback) Dunta Robinson your No. 1 target in free agency?

A: Our philosophy is to identify where you can improve your team in a number of areas. Corner was an area we wanted to improve. When it became apparent Dunta was going to be available, we went full force in that direction. We feel like we’ve added a player with the skill set to be a very efficient and effective corner. He’s a very physical player. He’s got good size for a corner. We expect him to be a leader on the back end. He’s very active in the community. He’s from Athens. He went to South Carolina. I think he’ll be a great addition in the dressing room and in the community. Signing him changes our thoughts on the draft. It eliminates that as a position of need. He gives us an option of using him against the opponent’s best receiver or keeping him on one side. He’s done both. Early in his career, he played inside, too.

NFC South foe New Orleans coach Sean Payton.

NFC South foe New Orleans coach Sean Payton.

Q: Since the Saints won the Super Bowl, should they be favored to win the division?

A: Arguably, I think the NFC South is the toughest division in the league. Almost every year there’s been a different winner, but with the Saints as the defending Super Bowl champs, they’ll go into the (division) as the favorite. Offensively, they’re very talented, and it starts with Drew Brees. They’re a powerful offense. Last season, they were probably the most opportunistic defense in the league. They did a great job of attacking the ball and creating confusion and forcing turnovers. At Carolina, John (Fox) will have his team playing hard and well. I think their offense will be set up around their two running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart). They’re always going to play strong defense with John and (defensive coordinator) Ron Meeks. I think (quarterback) Matt Moore has a very good skill set. He’s got the height and arm strength. He doesn’t have the experience Jake (Delhomme) had. He’s got a chance to be a very good quarterback. I think Raheem (Morris) will make big strides in his second season. I really like their big quarterback, Josh Freeman. Not only does he throw the ball, but he can run, too. He’s got some escape ability. He can extend the play. They made a lot of improvement, especially on the defensive side, attacking the offense. I see this as a typical year in the NFC South – some real battles.

Q: As a former defensive coordinator, what do you think about the rules that keep being changed that seemed to affect the defense the most?

A: Most of these rules are about player safety. They defined a defenseless player a little more in depth.

Q: What is Michael Turner’s situation after being hampered last season because of ankle injuries?

A: Michael came back, and in the first game he was back, he injured his ankle. He was really politicking to get back. The doctors cleared him. I think I looked at it in a different light. He’s such a tough guy he wanted to get back in and play. I think he’ll be bigger, faster and stronger this year. It’s important for us to do a good job of monitoring his carries for the game. We have to make sure we don’t overwork Michael throughout the season. We designed our game plan to get others involved. We thought the addition of (tight end) Tony Gonzalez would take some carries away from Michael.

Matt Ryan read to lauch a pass against.

Matt Ryan ready to launch a pass last season.

Q: What do you expect out of Matt Ryan going into his third season?

A: Matt improved from Year One to Year Two. I think there’ll be significant improvement from Year 2 to Year 3. He’s improved on and will continue to improve on the two traits all great quarterbacks have. One is decision-making, and the other is accuracy with the football. Matt has really improved in his decision making as far as what he can see and where he goes with the football. His accuracy has improved as well. We’ve opened up the playbook from Year 1 to Year 2. We’ll continue to expand what we want to do offensively. It was very important for us to add more weapons, like Tony Gonzalez. He had 83 catches, and we had almost 100 from the tight end position. We had, like, 14 the year before. That opens up his options and increases his ability to read the defense and get the ball into the right guy’s hands.

Q: What kind of season do you expect from defensive end John Abraham?

Smitty is expected a big bounce-back year from John Abraham  (Curtis Compton/compton@ajc.com)

Smitty is expected a big bounce-back year from John Abraham (Curtis Compton/compton@ajc.com)

A: John had a great year in 2008, 16 ½ sacks. His numbers weren’t nearly as good last season. As we watched tape and spent time evaluating him, we still felt like he had some very effective rushes. The sacks just didn’t come. Historically, he’s had a down year every third or fourth season, and he’s bounced back. We anticipate he will again. Sometimes we missed pressure up the middle when (defensive tackle) Peria Jerry went down. We felt like he was really coming along and could win some of those one-on-one battles.

Q: Why are the pass-rushing defensive (ends) so hard to find?

A: When you find the guy who can win one on one, you’ve got a special player. Sometimes teams commit six to seven players to protection.

Q: What about defensive end Jamal Anderson?

A: Last year, I thought he made big strides in terms of his end play in our base defense. He moved inside the majority of the time with our (nickel) package. He ended up spending half his time inside in passing situations.

Q: What kind of draft is this?

A: I think it’s a very deep draft at a number of positions. There’s going to be value in all rounds at all positions. It’s become an evaluator’s draft as far as who’s going to be available at what position. We have (eight) picks. Our No. 1 priority is to get as many good players as we can.”

Q: Tell us about cornerback Chris Houston, who you traded to Detroit after you signed Dunta Robinson.

A: Chris started 37 games for us and played well. He’s very physical. He can play man coverage. I think he’ll do a real good job at Detroit. When we made the move to sign Dunta, we made a decision. We felt good about our two young cornerbacks, and we acquired Brian Williams last year. Chris is a good guy. He started 37 games for us. It was an organizational move that once we added Dunta, we could (trade Houston).”

136 comments Add your comment

fanoffalcons

March 24th, 2010
5:15 pm

Get Spiller!

The Grinch

March 24th, 2010
5:26 pm

The fact that their going to reduce Turner’s carries (which is a good idea) makes the tendering of Norwood even more confusing. We need a change of pace back that can stay healthy and not get arm tackled by an 8 year old, and now it looks like we won’t draft one. I’m confused; this is a run first offense, isn’t it?

The Grinch

March 24th, 2010
5:26 pm

“They’re;” excuse me.

Formul8or

March 24th, 2010
5:29 pm

He doesn’t really say they’re going to make him a less percentage of the time, just looks like they’ll pass more. I don’t think it means Norwood or Snelling are getting more carries.

Tim Tebow's Tears

March 24th, 2010
5:32 pm

I agree. I want Spiller. Or BayBay

JJ

March 24th, 2010
5:33 pm

DOL, thanks for intel, very insightful especially with mock friday coming…D3’s of course! We have your RSVP on the spoon train, no backing out for OC or you may lose your seat.

JJ

March 24th, 2010
5:38 pm

Spoon, Graham or Mays unless they trade Norwood, then Spiller can be discussed. They will not carry 5 RB’s on a 53 man roster. Snelling is the future after they wear out Turner. Love Spiller over tiptoe Spiller but theirs no room for both. So, SPOON IT IS!!!

JJ

March 24th, 2010
5:39 pm

My bad…”tiptoe Norwood”.

Brian Hunt

March 24th, 2010
6:04 pm

Smitty is such a class guy. I like that he won’t talk ill of the departed, but it’s funny that he refers to Houston as “physical” when the lack of that trait is what got him benched in 2008. His evasive answer of the Anderson question is pretty telling.

chuck

March 24th, 2010
6:08 pm

The GM and Head coach want to be strong at the lines of scrimmage. That means a DE in the first round and I would be surprised for an OL to be one of the 3rd round picks. It pains me as a loyal UGA alumni to say this but maybe we will get lucky and have Morgan fall to us at 19. No way they pass on him.

SirReal

March 24th, 2010
6:11 pm

We’re not getting Spiller point blank.lol Though many of us would like to see it, I dont think we’ll get that one. lol They would not have tendered both Snelling and Norwood if they were not willing to keep them. I think our RBs are actually pretty good from Turner all the way to Norwood (when he’s not hurt) We’re drafting defensively first. Lets just be honest. Afterward, the next rounds we find a couple gems on offense ( a nice center to groom, maybe a TE?) and continue to add depth at LB, and the WHOLE D-line. We need more depth. Maybe we find an Elvis Dumervil-type in the later rounds? We’ll see! :)

mystikal

March 24th, 2010
6:12 pm

Im also skeptical why we tendered injury prone Norwodd, I like the guy, but he’s no good in street clothes all the time. Feel great having Snelling in the rotation and would love to see Spillers in the mix. Think he could be like our Reggie Bush as far as being that x-factor, especially if Douglas comes back healthy. This is only if we can trade Norwoood which I don’t see happening and I dont think Spillers will drop to us anyway. Definitely many needs on defense and I like Weatherspoon!

chris taylor

March 24th, 2010
6:14 pm

Dont get me wrong, i really love Spoon. i think he could really make us better. But in a 4-3 base DE’s r ur playmakers. If we got graham & move JA inside to rotate with babs and jerry that would strengthen us more than adding spoon. Sign j peezy for a year then pick up a 1st round OLB next year is what i’d do bet hey, im not a GM either. Spoon or Graham either is a good move.

falcon 71

March 24th, 2010
6:27 pm

take spiller and trade norwood for a nose guard

falcon 71

March 24th, 2010
6:28 pm

they missed Grady

waynester

March 24th, 2010
6:32 pm

Guys, please–
I know Spiller is great, but he’s not the only great change-of-pace back in this draft. Dexter McClusters will be just as good if not better as a pro. If Spiller IS there at 19 we should be on the phone with S.D. to trade down to 28 and gain an extra pick. We could get D McC at a more reasonable spot and cover several positions with a more versatile player. The Bills and G.B. are looking at McC in the mid-2nd so if we want him in red&black we need to jump on it…..

waynester

March 24th, 2010
6:37 pm

P.S. to my last post
If we do as I’ve suggested earlier and Kyle Wilson is still on the board(doubtful, but possible) we immediately get on the phone with the Lions and trade back to the top of the 2nd, and go to town with all our newly acquired extra pix…..

chris taylor

March 24th, 2010
6:49 pm

Spiller. C’mon ppl. Why dont we bring Reggie White in. How bout lets draft Lawrence Taylor. Spiller is not gonna make it out of top 10. It will cost us too much too move into second round much less up in first. No one wants norwood or any of our other tendered guys. Our offence is maturing, douglas coming back, fewer carries for turner so he should be more consistent. I have to believe jenkins feels the heat on his back so he should step it up even though he’s often the 3rd read so the balls gone by time he’s looked at. Keep reloading on defence & we’ll blow everyone away.

JJ

March 24th, 2010
6:51 pm

They do not miss Grady, we finished 2nd in the league against the run! We need penetrating, pass rushing DT, not grady. We run a 4-3, not a 3-4. With hiphop peria back, our push up the middle will collapse the pocket given our DE a better chance of sacks.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 24th, 2010
6:51 pm

Folks, you all need to get off the SPILLER train. He’s not coming here. He will be on a plane to San Fran by the 19th pick. But like old hoop coach Petey Gillen used to say, “Never say never!”

Brian Hunt
— He was very kind in his assessment of Jamaal Anderson. But you understand that he can’t go around ripping his players in public after he publicly stood up for them like he did in the Washington game (see photo above).

JJ — My mock will be updated on Friday, too. There’s enough mocking to go around for everybody. The Spoon train may have left the station. I’ll have more than a few bombshells for my folks!!!

Falcon71 — Big Grady Jackson is available. But Peria Jerry was slated for that role last season.

Mystical
— I understand your position on Jerious. But that’s not the team’s position.

chris taylor

March 24th, 2010
6:59 pm

I really like McCluster too. You know how a drunk driver wrecks & never gets hurt by staying loose. Thats McCluster, he holds the ball tight with both hands at moment of impact yet is loose enough to take alot of punishment. Where is Mughelli at? Does he help us enough to keep him? He’s overpaid & under produces. We should combine something with norwood to get McCluster in second.

JJ

March 24th, 2010
7:19 pm

Dol, bet you’re going Graham or Mays this week.

JJ

March 24th, 2010
7:20 pm

McClusters in 3rd?

JJ

March 24th, 2010
7:20 pm

or AJ Edds in 3rd? lol

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 24th, 2010
7:29 pm

NFL HAS RELEASED OFFICIAL DRAFT ORDER
FALCONS DRAFT ORDER
1st round 19th overall
2nd round No pick
3rd round 81st overall
3. (98th overall, compensatory)
4th round 117
5th round 149
5th round (165th overall, compensatory)
6th round 171
6th round 189

Mike Jay

March 24th, 2010
7:31 pm

Mughelli under produces? How do you figure that? He’s not a pass catching FB nor a rushing one. He is one of the BEST blocking FB’s out there. That is his job, not to produce offensive numbers. He helps other’s do that. Sure he makes a lot but he is one of the best at what he does. Ask Turner if he under produces.

Brian Hunt…
Yes, Smitty is world class. Fantastic hire, I hope he coaches here forever.

Lastly,
Stop the Spiller madness! Please, just stop. This is not fantasy football.

Mike Jay

March 24th, 2010
7:34 pm

More lastly,

Please for the love of all. Stop with the “we should trade Jamal Anderson or Norwood to move up” nonsense as well. I keep hearing that and it’s silly. JA has ZERO trade value. let me repeat that. JA has Z E R O trade value. Norwood ‘might’ fetch a 6th – 7th rounder in this draft. Might.

Ok I feel better.

PlanB

March 24th, 2010
7:35 pm

I want Grady back. Don’t know why we don’t try to get him. He was a starter for us and is as good as anyone we have with the possible exception of Jerry. I think he had several tackles for losses, so he can make a good push plus requiring a doubleteam most of the time. If nothing else use him for depth at DT.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 24th, 2010
7:37 pm

PlanB — GRADY, GRADY, GRADY!!!!

PlanB

March 24th, 2010
7:40 pm

And I think we should trade #19 for 2 second round picks.

PlanB

March 24th, 2010
7:42 pm

DOL please splain GRADY, GRADY, GRADY!!!!

chris taylor

March 24th, 2010
7:42 pm

We all know exactly what ATL should do. WIN. I cant see any teams fans blog’n/caring as much as us. Go Graham…Go Spoon…Go Falcons….i’m just ready for the season of dishing out a$$ whippin’s to begin. I only hope we got vaccinated for the injury bug. Must sweep division. I want to shut up the nay sayers and show everyone this team is serious. I firmly believe we can go undefeated at the beginning of every season. But 12-4 or 4-12 i’ve always been a fan so i guess i’m just blinded by love for my home team. ATL born & raised.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 24th, 2010
7:50 pm

PlanB — I was leading the cheers for you. You said you wanted Grady back.

gman

March 24th, 2010
7:52 pm

Enter your comments here

waynester

March 24th, 2010
7:52 pm

JJ
I just saw a mock on another site that had McClusters going to us in the 3rd and Edds as our 3rd rd comp. Assuming a DE in the 1st, I think I might pee in my britches just a little…
chris taylor
I’m right there with ya buddy–can’t wait to kick some ass in 2010….
DLed
No more Gravy, please. I do like us taking a penetrating DT like big Smith from La or G Atkins from here in Athens at the 149 or 165. Atkins may go earlier than this however…..

Mike Jay

March 24th, 2010
7:53 pm

I wouldn’t mind seeing Grady back for the right price. He certainly eats up space. Though I hate to admit it….Jamal Anderson played fairly decent in the middle last year. I know, crazy right? but there it is.

chris taylor

March 24th, 2010
8:10 pm

We dont run enough double back sets to have simply a blocking FB, u need some kind of versatility back there. Snelling, Turner, Mughelli all have same running style.

gman

March 24th, 2010
8:41 pm

i say, we should trade norwood, not for a first round pick, but a swap in the first and a second round pick. take our 1st pick DERRICK MORGAN GT , our 2nd pick WR ARRELIOUS BENN ILL, with our 3rd pick OLB A.J. EDDS our second 3rd RB BENN TATE AUB. our 4th DT D ANTHONY SMITH LOU TECH our second 4th CB/S MYRON LUIS VANDERBILT our 5th round C ERIC OLSEN ND our second 5th OLB RENNIE CURRAN GA our 6th G BRANDON CARTER TEX and the second 6th K HUNTER LAWRENCE TEX. after that draft SUPER BOWL

DC Dirty Bird

March 24th, 2010
9:00 pm

The one thing that Smitty said in his interview that struck me was that he said that they needed to get as many “good” players in this draft as they could and that this was an evaluators draft. I know that should be the mantra of every team, but what i gleaned from this was that they will draft based on value and not based on need. So, at the end of the day, the Graham/Spoon debate will be answered by who TD and Smitty grades higher for the 19th pick. If we don’t trade up into the 2nd, I see us drafting a high value CB (Owusu-Ansah, Cox, Warren), OLB if they take Graham (There are few OLB’s that are likely to be around in the 3rd with Dekoda Watson being the best), DE (Ricky Sapp) if they take Spoon, a speed WR, a developmental TE (Graham from Miami), and more lineman.

reallygroovy7777

March 24th, 2010
9:02 pm

TRADE ALL PICKS FOR SUH AND TEBOW AND TAYLOR MAYS USC.

Chop Buster

March 24th, 2010
9:08 pm

Good to hear…don’t run the young man in the ground. Even Smitty has said the league is going to more of an aerial attack game and using the run to keep teams honest. I still like a strong power and lightening running game though–eats that clock. I think our guys come back stronger this year with something to prove.

The Grinch

March 24th, 2010
9:08 pm

Count me in on the Dex. McCluster bandwagon. He would be a perfect fit.

joswald

March 24th, 2010
9:11 pm

DE or OLB is a lock in the first round. Now what is the scoop on this OLB Edds DOL?

Maxx

March 24th, 2010
9:14 pm

We’re nit Draftin Spiller or Bay-Bay at 19, we’re drafting Sean “Ham” Witherspoon!!!

Maxx

March 24th, 2010
9:15 pm

McCluster would be a nice pickup in a later round

Maxx

March 24th, 2010
9:15 pm

Would rather have Jhavid Best though!

Old Man

March 24th, 2010
9:21 pm

OK, my Metamucil break is over. Sorry I’m late.

JJ, I agree that Snelling is the successor to Turner, but not later. NOW. Turner is going to go from “Turner the burner” to “Turner the burned out” pretty soon. In fact, last season was the beginning of that. Snelling, when he plays repeated downs, is the kind of back that gets in a rhythm, see week 17 against TB. And he catches the ball, which Turner never does. Snelling is on the cusp of breaking out. I want him on my fantasy team (aka, the Atlanta Falcons) when he does that.

Listen people: trade Turner for some picks while he still has value (and trade Norwood for whatever). We need the top explosive back in the draft (Spiller?, McCluster?, Matthews?) whether it takes a 1, or 2, or 3 pick. And with the other picks we have loaded up with via trade address DE, OLB, etc. Snelling in tandem with the top explosive back out of the draft is what we need.

Think outside the envelope, people. NE, IND, PITT do it all the time.

Old Man

March 24th, 2010
9:26 pm

Maxx, if Best is the the “best” explosive back in the draft, then pick him. I’ll put him in the group with Spiller, Matthews, McCluster. Frankly, none of us can make that fine a distinction on players we may have only seen one of a lot. That’s TD’s job. The point is, why carry two bonecrusher backs who can start for most teams (Turner and Snelling) but we don’t have a second round pick, or a DE, or an OLB, or an explosive RB. Something’s wrong with that picture.

JJ

March 24th, 2010
9:29 pm

Turner does not reach his numbers without the best blocking FB Mughelli
in THE LEAGUE. STATS dont lie…or ask our man DOL who covers them fulltime. Mr. DOL, in league circles, where does Mughelli rank as a blocking FB say 1-100? As my friend Nookah says, ’nuff respect!!!

Old Man

March 24th, 2010
9:35 pm

JJ:

Excellent point. To some extent, whoever Mughelli blocks for is going to have space to run. The downgrade we suffer for moving Turner is minimal or non-existent, and we would could gain a lot in terms of picks, a speed RB, etc. Honestly, this is one of the ways in which the Mughelli investment pays off.