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Falcons Hire Saints Coach Ryan Nielsen, Ending Defensive Coordinator Search

The Atlanta Falcons have ended their defensive coordinator search, hiring New Orleans Saints defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.

The Atlanta Falcons are entering a new era.

According to NFL Network, Atlanta has hired New Orleans Saints defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen to replace Dean Pees as the team's defensive coordinator.

Nielsen, 43, worked alongside Kris Richard to call plays for New Orleans' defense, with the duo guiding the Saints to fifth league-wide in total defense.

A well-regarded talent developer up front, Nielsen has spearheaded the progress made from a variety of current or former Saints players, be it first-round pick Marcus Davenport, third-round pick Trey Hendrickson or undrafted free agent Carl Granderson.

Nielsen won the job over Green Bay Packers secondary coach Jerry Gray, former Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio, Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Al Holcomb.

Nielsen, who joined the Saints in 2017, has also interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings for their vacant defensive coordinator role. It was previously unclear whether New Orleans would grant access for Nielsen to interview with Atlanta, as permission was required and the division rivalry added another element to the equation.

Now, Nielsen and the Falcons have a chance to stick it to his former team twice a year.

You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter @DFlickDraft

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