Atlanta Falcons: Q&A with defensive assistant Mark Collins

FLOWERY BRANCH — During the recently completed minicamp, we chatted with defensive assistant Mark Collins, who’s set to

Defensive assistant Mark Collins.

Defensive assistant Mark Collins.

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?

Mark Collins  (The University of Georgia)

Mark Collins (The University of Georgia)

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

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35 comments Add your comment


June 27th, 2012
9:09 am


June 27th, 2012
10:07 am

Greg from Marietta

June 27th, 2012
10:23 am

Good article but it doesn’t really say much that we already didn’t know.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

June 27th, 2012
10:29 am

Great Information D-Led…..

Anything that Nolan’s defense does this year will be a big improvement over what Brian VanGorder had them doing last year, especially on 3rd downs. That soft zone rarely worked.

It is great to hear that the new coordinators are going to utilize and focus on the strengths of the player’s skills as oppose to trying to make the players fit their schemes without regard to what they can do best..


June 27th, 2012
10:34 am

I think the falcons can have a top 10 defence this year.


June 27th, 2012
10:41 am

SIXTH!!!! Yes!!!!! Nailed it.


June 27th, 2012
11:42 am

Wow, read between the lines, and you can easily tell that this guy Mark Collins doesn’t have any real expectation of being part of a dominant defense, he’s only towing the party line and that’s all….failure is imminent falcan’ts.


June 27th, 2012
11:51 am

SeenThisB4 is secretly a Falcons fan deep down, otherwise he wouldn’t spend so much time posting on these blogs. I know, the Falcons and their organization can really draw you in, unlike that sleazy, dull ass franchise known as the Saints. Get ready to put your bags back on Saints fans, look forward to a winless season!!


June 27th, 2012
11:55 am

Just a couple of things I don’t understand and that is how can they be playing better when there have been no games. Also, the roster should be set by the fall and the competition should take place this summer. Pretty bland assessment, but attitude is everything.


June 27th, 2012
12:03 pm

SeenB4 the bandwagon saints fan. Where were you prior to Drew Brees showing up? Youre probably one of those idiots who thinks the saints drafted brees and never heard of Aaron Brooks and Jim Haslett. When New Orleans falls apart I’ll be looking for your posts.

Drew Brees is insufferable and arrogant

June 27th, 2012
1:05 pm

Memo to Drew Brees: If you want “evidence” look no further than the signed admissions of your beloved head coach and former DC. So much for being concerned about player safety–I seem to recall Mr. Brees vehemently arguing against the 18 game schedule. Yet this bounty program is far worse for player safety…but the face of the NFLPA continues to deny the existence of what his own coaches admitted in a sad attempt to stand by his teammates. What a poor excuse for a leader and a hypocrite. Too bad the media coddles and sucks up to Brees and will not call him out on this–I guess they are still hung up on Katrina. Maybe Sean Payton can give Brees a painkiller from his stash to ease the shock of the whole situation.

Loyal Falcon

June 27th, 2012
1:16 pm

Top 10 All Around Defense…mark it down!


June 27th, 2012
1:42 pm

Nolan also said James and Adkins are “in a fight” and have been around long enough to know their roles. I think that “fight” is to earn a roster spot.


June 27th, 2012
2:46 pm

Very generic responses…. But I guess it’ll do.

No more eggcuses 4 Perrier Jerry

June 27th, 2012
3:28 pm

Realy? Is tat the best U can do? Though questons R so tame & lame. Not 1 queston about Perrier Jerry and why he is so bad? The guy was a fist round draft pix but play like an undafter free agetn.

DOL U fail at this enterview.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 27th, 2012
3:49 pm

No more eggcuses — Coach Mike Smith has said the battle at DT should be fierce. That includes Peria Jerry.


June 27th, 2012
4:39 pm

r we going to the SB

falcon run

June 27th, 2012
4:41 pm


June 27th, 2012
6:04 pm

When it comes to Jerry we have to ask ourselves how long it took to understand that we had nothing in Jammal Anderson, lets waste no time on another minutes eater with out any production.


June 27th, 2012
11:08 pm

All this team needs to do is be a top 15 defense on thrid downs and we will win the division. That is a big leap from 29th but Nolan has a proven track record and Asante completes the unit. No more easy throws for Brees, Rogers, etc. picking on a weak link. Abraham & Co gotta be licking their chops.


June 28th, 2012
12:58 am


falcon knowledge

June 28th, 2012
1:19 am

the best info we got out of this article is that the defensive assistant believes that kroy beirman,william moore ans lawrence sidury atr gonna have a big year/impact. Another interesting point is that lawrence sidbury is included in that list. In my opinion he could be compared to jason peirre pall when on the feild.


June 28th, 2012
8:14 am

Someone please let me know why we haven’t heard anything about QB Dominique Davis and how he fared during OTA’s. I mean was he any good? Is he better than JPW, will he make the practice squad? For a team that would be in the hurt locker if the number 1 QB went down, not much has been said about the QB reserve. So can we get at least a paragraph or two about the other 3 QB’s on the team especially the UDFA?

Section 126

June 28th, 2012
9:14 am

Great question Cal. I have been wondering the same thing myself. We need a quality backup quarterback, in case Ryan goes down for any lenght of time. Also a change of pace quarterback as an aditional weapon if necessary! I think Dominique Davis could be our man. Let’s go FALCON FANS time to RISE UP!!!!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 28th, 2012
9:59 am

Cal — Davis hasn’t looked particularly impressive throwing the ball, but you could attribute that to the amount of information that’s being thrown at him. He’ll have to come in during training camp, show that he can handle the information and throw the ball more accurately. He has a big arm, but was wild at times during the rookie minicamp. That will be one of the battles if the Falcons elect to keep three quarterbacks on the roster. He may fit as the practice squad/scout team QB. Hope this is helpful.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 28th, 2012
10:02 am

falcon knowledge — Good job. That is the most useful info here. Sidbury has to become a better special teams player. But when he’s on the field and rushing the passer, he keeps flashing.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 28th, 2012
10:04 am

DR. FALCON — Sugar Bear is still high on Ray Edwards, so that’s pretty good. There seems to be a little extra pep in Dunta’s step with the addition of Asante. He could be in for a big season.


June 28th, 2012
1:59 pm

Thanks for the info DOL.

falcon knowledge

June 28th, 2012
4:33 pm

falcon knowledge

June 28th, 2012
4:42 pm

If Ray Edwards is such a run stuffer and doesn’t seem to have play maker ability why don’t we just move him to DT like Richard Seymour in Oakland, a position of need and one where he could excel. He has DT size and strengh and a little faster than one. HE can’t get around the edge quick enouch so I vote give him the shortest route to the quarterback. DT rotation with a pressure rotation at D end including Abe, Kroy, Sidury, Massoqui, and Nezwudu. There all good and the younger ones will develop into real threats in this league if we take that path in my opinion.Anyone disagree?

falcon knowledge

June 28th, 2012
4:49 pm

My question to anyone is how come rookies have to be a first and secound round pick to actually have a shot at starting within the Atlanta Falcons organization. I would have liked to see Sids time come a little sooner. He’s now 25-26, he didn’t need that much time, he’s been applying pressure since day one. Who’s the next one to be 26 before he gets a shot? Michael Calvin, Quizz, Douglas, Nezwudu, Travian Robertson, one or two of the rookie linebacker we got this year, there all really good. Dedicated fan here wanting to know someone else progressive opinion’s of our team.


June 28th, 2012
11:42 pm

“My question to anyone is how come rookies have to be a first and secound round pick to actually have a shot at starting within the Atlanta Falcons ”

They have to be first or second round picks to start because we actually have front line guys that are good. So it makes it difficult for those guys to step right in like they did in 2008.

[...] Q&A with defensive assistant Mark Collins. [...]

[...] QA with defensive assistant Mark Collins. [...]

[...] Q&A with defensive assistant Mark Collins. [...]