Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been in charge of some of the best defenses in the NFL, including terms with the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. And there is at least one new aspect to the Falcons that he likes very much.
He comes to the Falcons with an impressive resume and a reputation for attacking. Despite some lopsided scores in the first two preseason games, the defense for the most part has looked good for Atlanta.
"The installation's going well," said Pees after practice on Thursday. "Guys have really kind of bought in. The great thing is we had great participation in the offseason. With the Zoom meetings back in phase one, and then with the OTAs we had great attendance. That really helps, especially being a new system, new staff. My hat's off to the players for being here for that. It's going well."
Pees has coached defense in the NFL since he started as linebackers coach with the Patriots in 2004, so he knows what he likes.
And he's impressed with rookie head coach Arthur Smith.
Said Pees: "Practice organization of coach Smith is unbelievable. So we've been able to get a lot of stuff in and get a lot of work done."
Rather than focus on an individual unit, Pees recognizes the synergy between the defensive line, linebackers, and secondary. Each player at every position must do a job in order to be successful. More importantly, each player must be able to fill several roles.
"They're all tied in," said Pees. "In all these things, everybody's got a job to do. They're multiple. There's multiple stuff up front that those guys gotta know, and there's multiple things in the back end."
"What makes it really multiple is fact that sometimes you can do the same thing in the front and do the same thing with two or three different coverages. And then there's also some things where you can do a bunch of things up front and keep the same coverage."
"So sometimes when we talk about 'multiple', it's not everything multiple. It's not every time you make a call the front is this, and the secondary is this when you change a call. We can run two or three different pressures up front, but play the same coverage. Or we can run the same pressure up front and run two or three different coverages."
"That's what really makes the thing multiple."
Pees was was last in the NFL in 2018 and 2019 as defensive coordinator of a Tennessee Titans team that finished eighth and 12th in total defense respectively.
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The Falcons finished 2020 29th in total defense, one spot behind the Titans, who didn't have Pees last season.
The Falcons were constrained in free agency by the salary cap and used their first-round pick on tight end Kyle Pitts. The biggest addition to the defense in the offseason was Pees himself.
He's promised a more aggressive, less predictable defense in Atlanta. The Falcons delivered on that promise in the first two preseason games.
Next up for Atlanta will be their final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night. Nearly all of the projected starters haven't played a down thus far in the preseason, but that could change for the likes of defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, linebacker Deion Jones, and cornerback A.J. Terrell on Sunday. And it'll also be one more chance for the rookie head coach to get ready for the regular season ... and to impress his top aide.
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