FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, admits that the pass defense is still a major concern in his early training camp state of the defense address.
VanGorder gave us a breakdown of each position group and his improvement plan for the exhibition season.
Q: How weird was the lockout for you?
A: Obviously, we gained time with respect to that. All of our quality control hours picked up in project areas and with studying other teams. We worked normal hours. The difference was that we weren’t on the grass.
Q: What were your major concerns after reviewing last season’s tapes?
A: I still think that our pass defense has got to get better. It’s still a concern for us. It was different third down situations than the year before. All of the situation football things that we look at, we emphasize and we get improvement. That’s the way it is in football, you find a leak on the other side. Now, we have to emphasize that particular area. That and we’ve got to be better against the rush. When I say that, we had some different kind of run-game situations that hurt us that were out of the normal a little bit. But we’ve got to make sure that we take care of them.
Q: What were some of those areas?
A: We had some explosives and we gave up some big plays with the reverse that kind of hurt our average. There was the 80-yard boss play against Arizona. Then, in the second half of the Carolina game, we gave up too many yards. That’s is an area that we are constantly emphasizing and we’ve got to get better.
A: Corey [Peters] is a solid, solid player. A real dependable player. A smart player. A great leverage player. Last year, Peria was coming of knee surgery and struggled to get to 100 percent. He never got to 100 percent a year ago. He already looks a lot better and more confident moving around on it. That’s a good sign. He’s got to come out here and work and get himself ready.
Q: What’s your take on the addition of defensive end Ray Edwards?
A: Obviously, we’re looking at a player who’s been productive in the NFL. We are looking for more production from that position. We think Ray is going to provide that for us.
Q: How’s Ray against the run?
A: He’s solid.
Q: Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas were re-signed. How’s your linebacking unit looking?
A: Curtis (Lofton) had to play through a lot of pain. We hope that he is 100 percent. He sure looks like he is right now. With this being Spoon’s (Sean Weatherspoon) second year in the system, we should see improvement from him. Stephen and Mike have both been in the system a long time and both bring a little bit different game, which could change up.
Q: Do you have a progression plan for Weatherspoon?
A: No doubt. We felt like down in New Orleans, he played a really good game before he got his first dent (ankle injury). He was never the same from there on out, but the progression up to that point was really outstanding. We expect him to get back on that path and keep going.
Q: How about veteran reserve linebackers Robert James and Spencer Adkins?
A: They’ve got a chance, but they’ve got to come out here and practice.
Q: How’s rookie linebacker Akeem Dent looking?
A: He’s a guy who brings very good work habits. He’s a good student in the classroom. I think those two characteristics give him a good advantage.
Q: Your safeties are back. Does William Moore have a chance to be a star? How’s Thomas DeCoud progressing at free safety?
A: He’s in the process. He started for the first time last year. He still has a lot to learn. We expect his play to improve. Then Thomas has started for us for a couple years in that communications role. He has to continue to be conscious of that and keep working on that.
Q: Will the defense be more aggressive this season?
A: That decision is always based, for all of us, on what we can do on the perimeter. We’ve got to see how some young guys develop. Chris Owens is still a young player. Dominique Franks is a young player and of course Grimy (Brent Grimes) is not here right now, so we are looking at those guys and we’ve just got to find out what they can do in one-on-one cover situations. That really is the deciding factor. Our personality is to always be aggressive on defense here with the Atlanta Falcons.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog