Falcons OC wants more red-zone targets for Julio Jones
As the newly installed playcaller for Atlanta’s high-powered offense, Steve Sarkisian wants to do more than simply copy what Kyle Shanahan left behind.
“The competitor in me is, ‘How far can we take it?'” Sarkisian said Wednesday, per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
It’s hard to imagine the Falcons vastly improving off of last year’s whirlwind attack, but when asked for ideas, Sarkisian did point out one area that could use an uptick: The use of All-Pro wideout Julio Jones in the red zone.
In 2016, Jones nabbed four red-zone receptions off just eight targets, far behind running back Devonta Freeman (12 catches off 16 targets) and receiver Mohamed Sanu (nine receptions off 11 targets). Naturally, Jones faced endless double coverage near the end zone, but Sarkisian believes opportunity exists for more production.
“I think, No. 1, they were still very good in the red zone,” Sarkisian said of Atlanta’s offense. “But when you have a player like Julio, it’s making sure we maximize his opportunities because there is so much double coverage, there are so many unique coverages that roll his way that when we don’t get that, let’s make sure he’s one of the primary receivers on that play because it is such a tough matchup for anybody one on one.”
“I would love to coach in the National Football League one day,” Vick said. “… At some point, I’d definitely love to help work with young quarterbacks and develop them and still compete, you know, with the team and with the coaches.
“It’s another way to chase a championship. You know I’m not done. I’m not done by any means. You know I didn’t get the championship when I was playing, so, hey, maybe I’d get lucky one year, maybe fortunate enough to join the staff that may be good enough.”
Vick spent his first six NFL seasons with Atlanta before being charged with running a dogfighting ring in 2007, which landed him in prison for 18 months. He then spent five years in Philadelphia from 2009-2013, before one-year stints in New York and Pittsburgh. The soon-to-be 37-year-old was out of football in 2016.
One of the most electric playmakers during the start of his career, Vick could bring a different perspective to the sidelines, where more and more dual-threat quarterbacks are filling the college ranks and entering the pros.
“I think my heart is really into teaching, you know, the game of football,” Vick told Schefter. “I feel like I’ve learned so much from so many great coaches over the years. You know, I don’t want to bottle up a lot of knowledge, and [I] really can’t relay the messages that I want to relay to a high school kid because … you don’t have to dumb it down, but you can’t be as complex. And I get that.
“So [at the] collegiate level or professional level, you can express ideas. You can go into detail. You know you can coach hard, and that’s what I want to do.”
Hiring Vick as a low-level coach won’t come without criticism. Despite his well-documented efforts to make up for his gross misconduct, some will never forgive Vick for his role in the killing of animals.
It’s possible that a team might value Vick’s off-field experience and his ability to communicate those pitfalls to young players, more than any coaching skills the ex-quarterback could bring to the job.
Quinn experienced arguably the two most heartbreaking losses in Super Bowl history with the Falcons and Seahawks (he was Seattle’s defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XLIX). Pete Carroll, his former mentor, has tried to steer the Seahawks back onto a Super Bowl trajectory — and depending on who you ask, that process is still ongoing.
Quinn has a chance to do something Carroll could not and return to the Super Bowl the next season. A Super Bowl loser returning to the NFL’s biggest game the next season almost never happens (the Buffalo Bills were the last team to accomplish it in the early 90s) but a roster like this rarely comes together. The Falcons still have one of the best teams in the NFL from top to bottom, and got significantly better on defense this offseason.