Q&A: Brian VanGorder shares his plan for the defense

 
 

 

 

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder emphasizes a point with head coach Mike Smith during defensive drills. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder emphasizes a point with head coach Mike Smith during defensive drills. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

  

 

 

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.

DYNAMIC DUO: How many sacks will Ray Edwards and John Abraham combine for this season? Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

DYNAMIC DUO: How many sacks will Ray Edwards and John Abraham combine for this season? Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

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.

How many sacks will John Abraham and Ray Edwards combine for?

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Q: We know about Jonathan Babineaux, what are you hopes for the young tackles?

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

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118 comments Add your comment

theriddler

August 4th, 2011
5:36 am

Come on down…Should be interesting…Want to see some big play guys emerge.

Marcus

August 4th, 2011
6:18 am

c’mon Defense. drop bombs.

David

August 4th, 2011
6:35 am

Get rid of Grimes and get a full grown DB, he’s not worth 2 million.

The Real Falcon

August 4th, 2011
6:56 am

Grimes was voted to the Pro Bowl but he’s not a real player?
Some people need to just stop being jealous and support what’s good for OUR team.

mitch (the one in Rome)

August 4th, 2011
7:03 am

Have not heard anything about Grimes signing or getting an offer from another team. DOL, do you think Franks or Owens can do the job over there? I read on Twitter where we are over the cap? If so, how does that influence our signing of Grimes?

Great coverage DOL!

jerry

August 4th, 2011
7:09 am

Grimes was an alternate, not voted in.

SeenThisB4

August 4th, 2011
7:14 am

That falcan’t defense has taken a couple of steps back, not forward. Brees is going to light it up like a bayou bonfire.

Virginia Jim

August 4th, 2011
7:16 am

Call the Eagles ASAP and try to trade for a CB!!!

Willie Coyote

August 4th, 2011
7:34 am

I guess the Saints don’t have a blog.

Blue Fender

August 4th, 2011
7:35 am

@Virginia Jim

Why are folks like you screaming for another Meangelo player like Samuels? If you want to crap on the team chemistry, go right ahead. Grimes IS NOT going anywhere because he’s a RFA. He’ll be at practice today. He’ll work out a deal after game 10 when new contracts don’t count towards the cap. Just chill people! Now…

LET’S PLAY SOME FOOTBALL! GO FALCONS!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 4th, 2011
7:49 am

Good morning folks!
Mitch
– Thanks for your kind words Sir! He’s reportedly going in to sign it today. (He’s missed nine meetings and five practices.) He could have signed it when the rest of the Non-UFAs did. But only he knows why he didn’t sign it. He sent me text and said I didn’t know what he was going through. So I hope he’s OK. It doesn’t affect the cap. I don’ think have to worry about the cap until you cut down to 53, but I need to get a rulling on that from their capoligist!

SirReal

August 4th, 2011
7:56 am

DLed,
Tell me the truth. Do you really think BVG is a good Defensive Coordinator? I (along with many other fans) feel like against better teams, they develop schemes to carve him up like thanksgiving turkey. (Andy Reid has a field day with this guy) He is very good with the LBs but I just dont see it overall with him.

Noodle Arm

August 4th, 2011
7:58 am

Van Gorder looks like the lead role in a grade B porn movie. GO FALCONS!!!!

DOL just stop

August 4th, 2011
8:00 am

You know exactly why he hasn’t been at camp. His manager stated why. And if you act like you don’t know, then that shouldn’t be too suprising as you have demonstrated you WILL write a story before you have all the facts. Go Falcons!

Hardy Falcon

August 4th, 2011
8:07 am

BVG WAS GREAT AT UGA, BUT I THINK HE IS IN OVER HIS HEAD IN THE PROS.

MM

August 4th, 2011
8:10 am

40 plus as an option? are you insane? you assume both stay healthy which is a doubt considering their ages and then ray is known to take plays off. realistically, a number between 14-22 is most likely. wow this paper has some pumper homers who write inane garbage

Remarkable

August 4th, 2011
8:11 am

“Our personality is to always be aggressive on defense here with the Atlanta Falcons.”

Now that we have Ray Edwards, that will really work for the Falcons. He will give them the up front pressure that they have lacked.

Ed

August 4th, 2011
8:12 am

I agree re Grimes. Get rid of the slime. He’s too short anyway and he gets burned too much. He made one play against the saints and everyone thinks he’s the next deion

Sam

August 4th, 2011
8:19 am

Any scoop on how Owens vs Franks is going?

Yeahsure

August 4th, 2011
8:29 am

“we are looking at those guys and we’ve just got to find out what they can do in one-on-one cover situations.”

I think Dunta will shine man to man. Not sure what Grimes can do it that situation. I’m not too confident is that regard. Hopefully we pick up a vet CB once teams start cutting rosters more.

GEORGIA97

August 4th, 2011
8:30 am

Kill, Bubba, kill. RIP.

GATA Eagles

August 4th, 2011
8:31 am

In regards to the usage of BVG, the food and drug administration has announced that close contact to this douche could cause irritation and infection, reports have linked this specific douche to a near death experience in Statesboro, GA as recent as 2006. Please avoid all usage of this douche as soon as possible.

Pepe Silvia

August 4th, 2011
8:31 am

Another twitter shot to a players wife via twitter… is there a for “shame” emoticon?

Falcon fan since prime

August 4th, 2011
8:37 am

We net a vet corner to at least play nickel

ToccoaBird

August 4th, 2011
8:38 am

Amen GEORGIA97 Amen. Bubba Smith was a great player and better person.

Larry

August 4th, 2011
8:40 am

Mr. Ledbetter,

Nice interview…but, I would imagine I’m not the only one very disappointed with perhaps the single most important question we would all have like answered:

“Looking back at the Green Bay playoff game, what happened from a defensive standpoint?”

I would think when a team gives up 5 consecutive 80+ yard TD drives and never forces a single punt something–players, coaching, and certainly Aaron Rodgers–really fell apart, and this is perhaps an understatement for what just may be the single worst defensive performance for a #1 seed at home in NFL playoff history!

mountain_jim

August 4th, 2011
8:40 am

Good column DLed. If VanGorder does not have the cover-corner capability yet to play aggressive, then he and TD need to get on the same page and get them before next year.

All that money spent last year on a CB in FA, all the draft picks spent in this regime, and apparently we did not have the money to upgrade there in this FA,

Falcon fan since prime

August 4th, 2011
8:41 am

Dled tell td to don’t sit on his thumbs about this cb situation.we cannot go into another season with this kid Owens anywhere on the field.let him sell concessions or something

Larry

August 4th, 2011
8:49 am

SirReal,

I think we all know the answer but DLED cannot answer honestly and still get access to players and coaches for interviews,

So, I’ll answer for him…BVG has nothing on his resume prior to the Falcons to warrant a job as an NFL DC and he is completely out of his league when compared to others like Dom Capers or D.ick Lebeau!

Further, we cannot hold BVG wholly responsible as the man who hired him, Mike Smith, was also a DC so together they have failed, in my opinion, after 3 years to field and coach a championship caliber defense like we see with the Packers, Steelers, Ravens, Jets, Bears and even the Saints in the playoffs.

I’ll never forget the dumbfounded look of BVG’s face in the Packers playoff game and the comments by Troy Aikman that “BVG looks completely lost as to what to do to stop Green Bay’s defense.”

Sad indeed!

SimpleDawg

August 4th, 2011
8:52 am

BVG was a “better” DC at UGA because, comparatively speaking, he had better players.

He will be “better” when the Falcons put better players on the field….the Falcon staff has been holding this defense together with spit and baling wire…..and some young players with some potential, but very little production – so far.

Abraham is a lot like Claude Humphrey……some plays a diamond, some plays a stone. We really need someone on the other side who plays every play…..or at least doesn’t take off the same play as Abe.

The defense is still a work in progress.

honest_abe

August 4th, 2011
8:54 am

larry – even though i’m a uga alum and huge fan i couldn’t have said it better myself. bvg is a competent college defensive coordinator and that’s about it. he’s way out of his league in the nfl.

Falcon fan since prime

August 4th, 2011
8:56 am

Larry those teams that u named have playmakers,we have toast on our sideline(Owens)

joe white

August 4th, 2011
8:57 am

Well van gorder this year we need more biltzs in order to cover for the secondary. we should be better this year

PMC

August 4th, 2011
8:59 am

I’m just going to continually stick up for Grimes I guess. Every CB in the league gives up plays. It happens to all of them. Grimes covers as well as anyone on the team and he’s a ball hawk. He gets thrown to because people think they have an advantage but he had what 6 or 7 int’s last year and all kinds of PD’s too. The guy WON the Tampa game along with Eric Weems…. and people are saying he’s not worth the signing tender? You guys are nuts.

Sure go get 6-3 213 Jimmy Williams he’ll look good getting off the bus.

Grimes is a good CB period.

honest_abe

August 4th, 2011
8:59 am

mike smith and bvg both became buddies down in jville. neither are considered brilliant football minds. except maybe in this town.

i must say at least mike smith runs a well organized football team. and he’s proven to be more than a competent/capable head coach. bvg on the other hand……

honest_abe

August 4th, 2011
9:02 am

i agree pmc. grimes is a good cb. gritty and competitive. still more suited to be a nickel back. but i don’t mind signing him for 2.1.

slim

August 4th, 2011
9:08 am

I don’t get it we are going into the new season with the same pass defense our cornerbacks weren’t so much the problem it was our linebackers in coverage that was why sign Mike P again when all he can do is stop the run and in our base scheme cover 2 we suppose to have linebackers that can cover i got a bad feeling our defense will suffer just like last year Curtis Lofton cant cover nor Mike P they are to slow why hasn’t Thomas D addressed this its been 3 year and our Achilles Heal Also why don’t Thomas D look into signing Steve Smith from the Giants to make our offense explosive and Kelvin Hayden he played in a similar cover 2 scheme with the colts Its been 4 years our defense still isn’t in the top 10 something has to change

The Joker...

August 4th, 2011
9:09 am

I agree PMC, Grimes may be undersized, but he has as much (if not more) heart as anyone on the Falcons; better yet, anyone in the whole entire league.

Stumped

August 4th, 2011
9:13 am

Van Gorder gave too many vanilla answers. You asked the right questions though.

DOL: “How is Ray Edwards against the run ?”
Van Gorder : “He’s solid.”

Why didn’t he say… “He’s very good at stopping the run but his specialty is putting heat on the QB. We are very happy to have Ray on the team. He will help take pressure off Abraham being double-teamed.”

Stumped

August 4th, 2011
9:15 am

Why not try to get Randy Moss ? He wants to play for a Super Bowl contender and Dmitroff has NE ties.

supamusic25

August 4th, 2011
9:15 am

LISTEN TO ALL OF U BRENT GRIMES HATERS..WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO IF WE LOSE BRENT? …OH…I SEE… U HATERS THINK THAT JULIO IS ALL WE NEEDED..IDIOTS WE NEED GRIMES AND 1 MORE QUALITY CB REMEMBER GB PUT 48, BURNED CHRIS OWENS LIKE HE WAS DOUSED WIT GASOLINE, AND MARCHED UP AND DOWN THE FIELD IN OUR HOUSE, US SCORING 49 POINTS SHOULDN’T B THE PRIORITY STOPPING TEAMS FROM SCORING 49 SHOULD B THE PRIORITY….

coachx

August 4th, 2011
9:16 am

D. Led, whats up with the poll ?

25 sacks as the lowest number of sacks of Abe and Edwards ?

Edwards career sack high for a season is only 8.5.
Expecting Abe to get 16.5 at 33 years old is rough.

Edwards will be a huge upgrade even though he is not a sack artest. He is an above average passer who is also a good run defender.

The Falcons will no longer have to play Jamall Anderson at DE (where he cannot pass rush) and watch QBs audible to pass plays.

The Falcons will no longer have to play Biermann, who is a poor run defender, and watch the QB audible to run plays over the RT.

Now Biermann can come in on 3rd on long obvious passing situations and rush the QB when he is fresh.

I expect Edwards to help Biermann tremendously b/c now Biermann can play the role his game is designed for ( situational pass rusher).

I expect:
Abe 10 sacks
Edwards 8 sacks
Biermann 6 sacks
Babbineaux 5 sacks
Peters 3.5 sacks
Jerry 3.5 sacks

Falcon fan since prime

August 4th, 2011
9:16 am

We can’t sign anybody right now we 1m over the cap

supamusic25

August 4th, 2011
9:17 am

I WOULD ONLY TAKE RANDY IF OUR TEAM IS IN A POSITON WHERE WE’RE NOT DEPENDANT APON HIM….LET’S FACE IT HE’S A QUITTER

SeenThisB4

August 4th, 2011
9:19 am

Why is Abraham wearing a skirt in that picture? Is he trying to tell ya’ll something?

PMC

August 4th, 2011
9:20 am

I’d love to get a veteran corner in here to allow grimes to play the Nickel. I still think they will bring a veteran in closer to the end of preseason.

Falcon fan since prime

August 4th, 2011
9:20 am

Supamusic I totally agree!!!

Stumped

August 4th, 2011
9:23 am

Edwards is laughing at Abraham in the skirt…

Randy Moss is a hot-head but 15 tds would make us all forget that…

Grimes is pretty good but the tall receivers dominate his short ass.

Hockey Biltong

August 4th, 2011
9:25 am

Wasn’t Smiths’ coaching job in Fla. defensive? So between him and BVG, they must have an inkling about what they have in the Falcons prospects. Otherwise, we would have seen actions to adress this.Perhaps there is a cap release,a quality d guy, who is not high profile, that is out there waiting to be picked up at the right moment.

Stumped

August 4th, 2011
9:25 am

Plaxico Burress 6′5″ just signed with Eagles. Can’t you foresee a playoff matchup with Grimes getting toasted for 4 tds covering Burress ?