FLOWERY BRANCH — During the recently completed minicamp, we chatted with defensive assistant Mark Collins, who’s set to
enter his second season with the Falcons after coaching 11 years in the collegiate ranks.
The former four-year starter at defensive end and outside linebacker at East Tennessee State has made coaching stops at ETSU, Michigan, Elon, Georgia Southern, Georgia and Louisiana-Monroe.
He was a graduate assistant during Georgia’s 11-2 season in 2007. The Bulldogs enjoyed a No. 2 ranking in the final Associated Press poll after they won their last seven games of the season, which included a 41-10 victory over Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.
He was on Brian VanGorder’s staff at Georgia Southern and was a part of two Big Ten championships and back-to-back trips to the Rose Bowl while at Michigan.
Here are excerpts from the Q&A with Collins, who’s been working closely with coordinator Mike Nolan and the position coaches to install in the defensive scheme:
Q: How’s the defense been looking?
A: The guys have done a nice job of picking up the new system. They’ve been excited about it. They’ve really taken a lot of energy and enthusiasm out onto the field.
Q: What should the fans expect from Coach Nolan’s defense?
A: It’s going to be a little bit more flexible on third downs. There’s going to be a lot more pressure and a lot more versatility in coverage as well. Everybody is excited about it.
Q: How does it help to add a player like cornerback Asante Samuel?
A: Anytime that you bring a Pro Bowler into the mix, it helps us out a lot. We’ll try to just get the best 11 out on the field. You are always trying to upgrade your roster.
Q: Can you speak to the development of some of the younger players?
A: When you look at guys like [Kroy] Biermann, [Thomas] DeCoud, [William] Moore and [Lawrence] Sidbury, a lot of those guys are going into their fourth or fifth years. They’ve learned how to be NFL players. They are taking it to another level at his point. You can see it in their games out there. They are playing with a lot more confidence. Even though there is some difference in the terminology with the systems. A lot of it is the same. It’s exciting to see those fourth and fifth year guys progress.
Q: Is that group the key to the defense’s improvement in 2012?
A: You definitely expect them to take the next step. There is certainly an expectation there when those guys come back. They’ve been through the wars.
Q: Any sense of what you all hope to get out of the minicamp?
A: First and foremost, you want every guy to feel comfortable with the system. So when they come back to training camp, they’ve got a good foundation and we can just build from there.
Q: How’s the middle linebacker competition going?
A: I think it’s always good for a young guy like [Akeem] Dent to be out there with [Lofa Tatupu]. It’s good for both of them. It’s a good healthy competition. For a guy like Akeem, it’s good for him to have that guy there with that veteran presence.
Q: How’s Robert James coming along? Is he a guy that we need to keep an eye on in that linebacker group?
A: I think both him and Spencer Adkins are guys that are fighting right now and have been around. They understand the system. They understand their roles. It should be good competition in the fall.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog