Atlanta Falcons: Q and A with Mike Nolan

The exhibition season is over. It counts from here on out for the Falcons. In advance of the season opener against the Chiefs, new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan sat down with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore. Here are his thoughts about the unit, John Abraham’s snap count and the role of Ray Edwards.

Q. What are your thoughts about the state of the defense as you get to the end of camp?


Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (right) talks with head coach Mike Smith during a recent practice.  JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (right) talks with head coach Mike Smith during a recent practice. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

A. When it’s new like this, it’s always a work in progress. It still is right now because there are things that you practice, every team is this way, you practice things you haven’t shown [in an exhibition game] and have only done in practice. I would say they have progressed pretty well. The guys have responded well to the things we have asked them to do, scheme-wise and technique-wise. I’ve been pleased with that part. It’s nice to face a little adversity in [exhibition] games, which we’ve had. We’ve also had enough success that we feel good about those things. The challenge is always in the season because you get [the opponent’s] full deal. You don’t get it like the preseason when you only get a little bit. I like the group. They’ve worked hard. A little bit of luck and you’ll usually be pretty good. No luck and … better to be lucky than good.

Q. The defense has really only added one piece this offseason with Asante Samuel. Why will this unit be more successful than last season?

A. If anybody knew that – heck if I knew I’d move to Vegas and change jobs – but you don’t. The challenge and the excitement is just that. You don’t know. How good they can be? I don’t know but I like the group. They are a very energetic, passionate group. Those things are huge when you are playing the style that we want to play. I think that is really critical. If you are not, if you are more somber, the defensive mentality is not there. It’s just kind of blah. It’s a good group for that [energy and passion].

Q. Would the fair way to ask it be that you think the talent is here?

A. I think the talent is here. You don’t have a lot of choices. It’s like playing cards. You play with what you’ve got. What are you going to do? Walk in and tell the owner? That may be the facts sometimes but you don’t have a choice. You deal with what you’ve got. Like I said, it’s a good group. You are always cautious not to get injuries because that changes everybody’s complexion. If you stay healthy and keep the same group, I think most teams will say the fare pretty well during the season.

Q. What are the strengths of this defense?

A. Good question. I would say the strengths, at this point because we haven’t played as a unit in a game, I think they are more individual strengths. What I mean by that is I think [John Abraham] is a strength. I think someone like [Jonathan Babineaux] with his experience is a strength. [Sean Weatherspoon] is a strength. Our players, individually, is all you can really say. Outside of that, it’s not like you can say that our run defense or our third-down [defense are strengths] because we haven’t played. We don’t know. Believe me, the first game won’t be indicative of where you will end up at the end of the season. In some respects, you’d say I hope it does because you are good at something. But whatever comes up a little short in the opening game you want to get those things rectified. Like I said, looking for a strength as a unit, anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Anybody could say ‘Oh, it’s the secondary.’ Let’s caution that a little bit because we are going to play a lot of good quarterbacks too. We’ll see.

Q. What are the weaknesses or areas of concern?

A. I’m excited about the whole group but I’m always concerned about the whole group too. It’s so early to tell. Preseason doesn’t tell. Like I said, I’m encouraged by the group. I think they will do well. I think it’s going to be a good group. We need to stay healthy so that this group doesn’t change. Otherwise you are into your backups and guys are backups for a reason. Adding guys like Samuel, [keeping Brent Grimes] those are all positives but it’s all on an individual basis until we get into the games.

Q. Abraham was on a snap count last season. Do you expect that to be the case again this year?

A. Yeah, I think so. What that snap count is? It will vary. You always try to keep those guys [fresh]. The other thing with him is not only is he up in age but you always want to keep him fresh because if you get into a two-minute situation in a game, you want that guy in the game, you want him going strong. You don’t want him gassed. Some of that is game related in his position. Now, if it was a big old tackle that you are trying to do that too because he is older, it might just be because he’s only a run-down guy and you want to keep him fresh. In Abe’s case, the entire game you need him for all the situations – third down, any pass situation which nowadays is any down.

Q. Ray Edwards was brought here as a pass-rush end. In talking to him, he says he is to stop the run first. Is that how you see him? Is that a change?

A. It’s because he starts in base (run defense) and he’s a backup on the sub (pass defense). So yeah, that would lend you to believe he’s more a run-first, pass-second [end]. It’s an important thing. The objective is to win. There is nowhere, ever, where the sack means winning. Last time I checked, points mean you won. People get a little lost in that because it’s sexy. It’s nice. And it’s good to have those. But you want to win first so you need guys that can create the situation so the other guys can rush. If you can’t stop the run and get people in situations where they have to pass, they won’t and they will take advantage of that. His job is very important regardless of whether it is as sexy as it was once thought to be.


General manager Thomas Dimitroff discusses the 53-man roster

Practice report: Snelling, Owens return from injury

Smith won’t say who won their “open competitions” at RG, CB and Returner

Q and A with defensive coordiantor Mike Nolan

Falcons round out their practice squad

Falcons trim down to 53-man roster; Adkins, Franks, Meier and Zelenka cut

Falcons quotes after the 24-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here’s a look at who’s on the bubble

Backup quarterback Luke McCown signed, Chris Redman released

Harry Douglas not the forgotten man in the Falcons offense

Corey Peters to be evaluated after six weeks

Falcons waive Parker Wilson, place Peters on injured list

5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins

Should the Falcons trade with Jax/London Jags for MJD?

Falcons third-round pick Lamar Holmes set to make his debut vs. Dolphins

Coordinators hand out their exhibition mid-term reports; backups need to step it up

Running back Michael Turner still a weapon

Falcons thin at left tackle after Will Svitek goes down; out for season

Falcons finally get fiesty in practice; a couple of fights breakout

Akeem Dent returns to practice; will play against Miami

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

61 comments Add your comment

Gray Mule

September 1st, 2012
10:41 pm

Well, we’ll see.

Hopefully, we have a better defense. We need it.

Falcon Freddy

September 1st, 2012
10:52 pm

Almost First Rats!!!!!


September 1st, 2012
10:53 pm

Interestingly vague. Seems like he’s been around long enough to be wise enough not to go all Rex Ryan. Nolan has a track record of success. Hope he’s successful here too.

yo mama

September 1st, 2012
10:53 pm

bad interview. if the coach says like i said earlier, i guess it means you are asking the same questions. its your job as the reporter ti engage in a conversation that gets you answers and not this hypothetical crap.

chris, you normally post great stuff. guess you started your holiday early. better luck next time. it will get better.

Deion Sanders

September 1st, 2012
10:57 pm

It would have been nice to have kept D. Franks. I think he probably started takin it easy in the punt game after he had that big run in the first game. He may not have been the brightest when it came to the play book and it probably cost him his job. I hate that. I think we need a couple of bigger corners especially when we have face the Calvin Johnshons, Jimmy Grahams, Randy Moss etc., etc., But we have to trust that Mike Smith and Mike Nolan no what they are doing. I also hate Darren Walls got hurt. I think he was going to be a good nickel back.

Waffle House

September 1st, 2012
11:05 pm

They need to set it up now…


September 1st, 2012
11:15 pm

Seemed like I just read an interview with Dennis Hopper….


September 1st, 2012
11:17 pm

Interesting take on Edwards, if he’s not on the field on 5rd downs, passing situations, then we’re overpaying him!

Falcon James

September 1st, 2012
11:18 pm

Pressure Pressure Pressure. Every down!!


September 1st, 2012
11:44 pm

I watched the preseason games really close and I was not overly impressed with Franks (or McClain for that matter).

Darrin Walls looked pretty good……..I think he gets the McClain spot if he had not been injurred.

It is a shame no teams cut a good LT (due to salary cap concerns)…..I did not expect it, but I was hopeful.

old qb

September 2nd, 2012
12:18 am

When you cut through the ” coach-speak” and the best he has to say is “You have to play the cards you’ve been dealt” I wonder if those were Custer’s last words.
Hey, last year’s defense, especially on third down stunk. And the truth about getting Ray Edwards for big money while letting Jamaal Anderson go because he was “good against the run” is just a shade under pure panic for that side of the defensive line. And if Weatherspoon or Abraham goes down this team is in deep doo-doo.
Face it, Robinson has been mediocre and Samuel talks like a 21-year old super-star and gets torched by a 21-year old superstar.
Other than Samuel there have been NO additions to this team. The BIGGEST loss of this team was Eric Weems.
There has not been one single word after the cut to 53 about Tim Toon. It’s all Cone. The NFL scouts and coaching staffs all must sleep with a tape measure. If a receiver isn’t 6′2″ tall and 205 he’ll never make it. Weems was all-pro on punts and kickoff returns and the first one down the field to make a tackle on kickoff returns.
Toon made the team not because he caught a touchdown pass. Rather, what impressed me was catching a wet football on a punt return, picking up yards, and getting out of bounds. I think he has a little Wes Welker in him. Hope so because I keep looking at the roster and I see zero additions to the 2012 team. I still hold they’ll be 9-7.

Mouth of the NFC South

September 2nd, 2012
2:53 am

Well, it doesn’t sound like Nolan thinks highly of Ray. He basically said the Ray is not a pass rusher. I thought we signed Ray to get us 8 sacks a year because we didn’t have a pass rusher other than Abe. So, millions of dollars spent, and we are no better off than where we were before. We still don’t have anyone other than Abe who can rush the passer. Nice.


September 2nd, 2012
3:55 am

LOL! Yall are something. This team will be just fine & I can’t wait to see what all of you experts have to say once we start kicking a**!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


September 2nd, 2012
4:09 am

I agree with NFC south. In my opinion,30 million on a defensive player thats nothing more than that is a waste. Were probably better off putting a backup DT at RE and trading his a** for picks. Im a little upset Ray tried to casually say hes not going for sacks. ANd when arent turnovers and sacks important. Sack fumbles are what we should really be working on Mike Smith.

[...] Atlanta Falcons This entry was posted in Atlanta Falcons and tagged Atlanta, Falcons, Mike, Nolan. Bookmark the permalink. ← Tampa Bay Bucs with Flurry of Roster Moves: Fan’s Look (Yahoo! Contributor Network) [...]

The Real Rick

September 2nd, 2012
7:11 am

Having not heard a lot from Nolan, I’m not sure what to take away from this interview. Overall it doesn’t sound like a man who is confident in what he has. He’s definately nervous about the depth of the team….


September 2nd, 2012
7:20 am

I agree with old qb. Nolan says: “I think the talent is here. You don’t have a lot of choices. It’s like playing cards. You play with what you’ve got. What are you going to do? Walk in and tell the owner? That may be the facts sometimes but you don’t have a choice. You deal with what you’ve got.” What the heck is THAT all about? It sure does not sound like Nolan thinks he has great talent to work with. He may just have let the cat out of the bag here. You know how we were among the worst teams on 3rd down last year? Well, we lost Lofton and gained Asante. I call that a draw at best. Otherwise we’re basically the same defense. TD obviously thought the problem was scheme and not personnel. After reading this interview, I’m not sure his DC agrees with him.


September 2nd, 2012
7:23 am

Ideally you want to score alot of points so the defense has a lead to work with hence can take more chances.

Mitch (the one in Rome)

September 2nd, 2012
7:32 am

Loved CMN’s responses. Vague and sober like a good coach ought to be. He knows we need a few more pieces but he knows how to not put any fodder out there for foolish expectations. Great responses. I like him more now as a DC.


September 2nd, 2012
7:43 am

yo mama

September 1st, 2012
10:53 pm

“bad interview”
Is that all you’ve got? Nolan saying “Preseason doesn’t tell. Like I said, I’m encouraged by the group”, is just rhetorical. Even Nolan at one point says “Good question”, still a rhetorical response. It’s coach speak……………he’s not gonna come out and say we are gonna kick some ass and he’s not gonna come out and say we need to upgrade position players.

Find something else to complain about.


September 2nd, 2012
8:01 am

this is a top 5 defense. for edwards – he is challanging him to do his assignments first. if he sticks to his 1st assignment, then the sacks will come. don’t you remember how often last year ray was out wide and blocked because he didn’t have the speed to get around the corner?


September 2nd, 2012
8:16 am

We need to see Ray Edwards bring a higher level of intensity, a little more like Beirmann. Ray saying….”Oh, uh yeah, I’m run first”, ……..sounds like to me he is still going to take a few plays off. Ray says he’s 100% healthy so Ray, please play like we didn’t piss away $30 million.

Chris Vivlamore

September 2nd, 2012
8:17 am

Reading transactions this morning. John Parker Wilson signed to practice squad in Jacksonville.

Rise Up Nation

September 2nd, 2012
8:19 am

Bloggers what did you want him to say in the interview? If he picks a strength of the unit he isolates anogher part of the D, if he picks a weakness, he throws a part of the under the bus! He played team interview here guys and he choose to speak good about his “unit” as a whole which was very smart! Come on guys! He has to be samrt enough to pick and choose his words like he will pick and choose how to place this defense in the right positions this year! Can we all relax and not be so picky and dissect every interview and every word from the coaching staff? Relax, we about to Rise Up and if you not with us we cut you out the picture! Leta go birds!


September 2nd, 2012
8:26 am


September 2nd, 2012
7:23 am
Ideally you want to score alot of points so the defense has a lead to work with hence can take more chances.

Naw, I’m gonna leave it alone.


September 2nd, 2012
8:34 am

Jacksonville Jaguars

OL Daniel Baldridge, WR Mike Brown, DL Ryan Davis, DB Antonio Dennard, OL D.J. Hall, LB Joshua Jones, FB Will Ta’ufo’ou, QB John Parker Wilson.

Yep, good call Chris Vivlamore September 2nd, 2012 8:17 am

Glad to see Joe Tom Billy Bob John Parker Wilson get on somewhere……………..


September 2nd, 2012
8:35 am

I read this as a big challenge to his team. They haven’t won the Superbowl yet and he knows it. They can’t be classified as great because of attention to the playbook or good attitudes. They have to come together as a team on the field. He knows that the synergy of a great team is so much more than the sum of individual players. That is how no-name defenses grow to be Superbowl teams.

I certainly believe that they have the raw talent to do that; especially with Nolan’s leadership and schemes. He will let the most successful players play regardless of salary and he will reward highly effective play on the field. His scheme will spread the opportunity among all who step up to the challenge. This is how great teams are built. They are at the start of the season and haven’t played a game yet. Let’s see how they look on the field before we judge them. I am optimistic… this is the team that put the SB Giants on their butts during the first half of the playoff game last year by being a little agressive. They not only held the Giants to zero points in that half, they scored the game’s only points and they held the Giants to about 6 yards of offense… The second half or course, they reverted to a bad scheme and lost miserably. I still don’t think that was personnel. I expect this team to rise to Nolan’s challenge and WOW us with defense. It will continue to improve throughout the year. If any coach out there knows how to play the hand he is dealt, it is Nolan! I can’t wait to see them in action! GO FALCONS!


September 2nd, 2012
9:14 am

NFC South Practice Squads so far………..

OL Ricky Henry, DB Jerico Nelson (probably waitin’ on Payton to advise them)

Carolina Panthers
OL, Bryant Browning, WR Lamont Bryant, DT Nate Chandler, WR Jared Green, TE Nelson Rosario, RB Armond Smith, OL Zack Williams.

Tampa Bay
TE Drake Dunsmore, OL Brian Folkerts, WR Dale Moss, WR Bert Reed, QB Adam Weber.

Whadda Ya Know?

September 2nd, 2012
10:05 am

Here’s the bottom line (and Nolan hinted at it)…we are what we are as a team. He’ll have to use his experience to put the players on the field in the best position to win. I’m sure there will be some unconventional things he’ll have to do to get after the QB and make him uncomfortable. One thing I know is we won’t sit back and take what the offense gives us like in the past.

Coach LockDown

September 2nd, 2012
10:43 am

That was a waste of time and typing…He said absolutely nothing! individual strengths really! That’s what the preseason is for …to see how your players execute your philosophy and evaluate. I thinks it’s ok to mention a strength or an area to improve without it sounding like you’re making a guarantee or panicking.


September 2nd, 2012
10:45 am

Nolan is not BVG. ‘Nuff said for now.


September 2nd, 2012
11:47 am

Yeah I watched my Clemson Tigers whip BVG’s Auburn defense last night. Glad BVG is with Auburn and not the Falcons. :-)

Nolan will make the most of the talent he has. No doubts there.


September 2nd, 2012
12:07 pm

Man the Falcons give the worst interviews. I guess it starts with the GM, and everyone below him is brain washed into delivering the same vanilla answers. Its actually hilarious to me. Ah well, only winning on the field matters. And we’ve been pretty good at that.

explosive defensive line, linebackers, secondary

September 2nd, 2012
12:13 pm

I think the talent is here, we just need to “process” it.

True Falcon Fan

September 2nd, 2012
1:05 pm

Hey Dled: Excellent post Q&A, i bet it’s neat to talk to coach Nolan, mainly because he is very savy in answering practice. One can tell he’s very experienced re: Belichek answering methods for sure — I think coach Nolan brings very big change to the Falcons defense. We shall see soon how good they are……….

Go Falcons!!!!

Brian Hunt

September 2nd, 2012
1:13 pm

It was a good interview. Nolan basically said that the team has some talent and can compete, but not enough talent to dominate. I think we’d all agree with that. His honesty reminds me of Dan Reeves.


September 2nd, 2012
2:01 pm

As a fan, I wish at times one of our coaches would be Rex Ryan-esque and say “Yeah we’re going to kick ass and take names later.” However, I know Mr. Blank wants a class organization. Someone like Asante Samuel, who may not be who he was five years ago, is a breath of fresh air. Our defense has to get after the offense and not be so predictable. This is supposedly what Nolan brings. Fingers crossed til next Sunday!


September 2nd, 2012
2:30 pm

off topick:
but im LOVING the new falcons fight song Williem moore #25 rapping himself
FIRE!!! listen now!

he flat out killed it, if you dont feel like running into a wall after that you aint human.
tell me if im lying

[...] Q and A with defensive coordiantor Mike Nolan [...]


September 2nd, 2012
3:48 pm

Samuel the only difference from last year? Nolan called Weatherspoon a strength, who is viewing himself as a D leader this year. That means to me that Nolan thinks the unit will be a more Weatherspoonish “energetic, passionate” this year– same thing you hear from other players. Hard to guess what that means, but looking forward to it.


September 2nd, 2012
4:46 pm


Michael M.

September 2nd, 2012
5:50 pm

Falcons will win the NFC South Title, Saints can’t contend, Buccaneers are rebuilding and have no chance and the Panthers aren’t good enough yet……………………………..

Jones will have Pro Bowler Roddy White playing on the other side of the field, the indomitable Tony Gonzalez at tight end, Michael Turner in the backfield to keep defenses honest, and a bulked up Matt Ryan dying to show off his improved arm strength.

How do you prepare for that as a defense?

“You know what I would do? Just pack up my stuff and go home,” a laughing Jones told on Saturday. “I mean, who are you gonna double? Tony? Roddy? Me? That’s six people. What are you gonna do?”

White is the established star, but Jones appears to be poised to take over the starring role in Atlanta.

“I think the guy can catch 80 sleepwalking,” said Falcons receivers coach Terry Robiskie.

These Falcon players must know something we all don’t know for those are some mighty bold words from Julio Jones !……………….Can’t stand it, ready to find out ……………………………..

The Falcons defense will keep many more teams from scoring more points this season than last year with the new schemes and design and not get burned on big plays in the secondary as they have in past years………………..see em rushing the QB more too.

Look for them to get off to a fast start the first part of the Season, take a slump somewhere along the middle of the Season and then during the latter part of the Season go back to their winning ways and claim the South Title towards the Season’s end……………..

Michael M.

September 2nd, 2012
5:51 pm

oh yeah………….I drinked the kool-aid…………………………………………….


September 2nd, 2012
6:02 pm

Dranked the kool-aid? More like you drowned in it.

Like I said yesterday, you falcan’t fans should stock up on the hard whiskey, You’re going to need a lot of it to drown your sorrows when you realize your team is nothing but an also-ran.

abby normal

September 2nd, 2012
7:36 pm

Did I miss something? What the hell did Nolan really say??


September 2nd, 2012
8:02 pm

He said he doesn’t know If he’s manage to improve his squad or not, but that he has hope, though overshawdowed by a lot of concern cause it’s still a work in progress.

I think he knows that his squad could not stop a good high school offense.

[...] survived the final cuts, it’s time to take a closer look at them. First up, more… Atlanta Falcons: Q and A with Mike Nolan – 09/01/2012 The exhibition season is over. It counts from here on out for the [...]

All In

September 3rd, 2012
1:06 am

I always kinda thought Robinson has been mediocre… some people talked me into letting Van Gorder take some of that blame… but he’s just a headhunter in a league where there’s no place for what he does… leading with the head….I mean Cover-wise… I can’t see him stopping a slot receiver… I’m still waiting for him to jump a route after 2+ years… I think I saw him almost jump 1 route this preseason… He better not miss any tackles this year… him or DeCoud… those two always arrive to the play late… most of their pickoffs are gifts (from tips). I’m hoping whatever nolan brings changes some of that…

Samuel on the other hand… is definitely an upgrade on the outside… I don’t care how much he talks… he’s got too much pride to let that AJ Green thing happen again… PLUS.. how many times have you seen Dunta Robinson break on a ball? I think #22 already eclipsed his #s for the past 2 seasons in this limited preseason play only… Dude is good…

I don’t know what to say about this Weems stuff… I couldn’t stand him returning punts… I thought he waived the white flag much too often even when he had plenty of space to work… but when he finally decided to try to take one back he did pretty well… plus he did make a lot of tackles on special teams.. can’t front on that at all… I wouldn’t say he’s irreplaceable tho… but I don’t know if we filled that hole… Depending on how Carolina and TB actually turn out… I’m guessing we get no less than 10 wins. I can’t even complain about #2 from what I’ve seen so far… I used to have a checklist of all the things I wanted him to get better at… I’m only halfway concerned about only 1 of them as of now… so I think that list can be burned now…. That offense is gonna be menacing…

All In

September 3rd, 2012
1:13 am

Ray Edwards… time to make an impact man… no injuries to fall back on this time… don’t let us think you are truly unfocused with all this stuff we see you doin outside of football on these websites…

[...] Q and A with defensive coordiantor Mike Nolan [...]