Q: The Falcons linebacker group is not the biggest group but has been pretty effective against the run. What has allowed them to be good in that area?
BB: Right, well, [De'Vondre] Campbell's a pretty good-sized guy. I mean, he's got some length and runs well. [Deion] Jones is a little smaller in stature, very instinctive, obviously fast, quick, really does a good job of finding the ball, reads things quickly. [Duke] Riley plays in their three-linebacker defense and some of their nickel stuff with Campbell, but Jones pretty much never leaves the field. Look, they're a one-gap defense and so there's always one more guy than you have. However many you have, they always add one more in there, so the linebackers fill their gap and then they run well on perimeter plays. Again, defensively, they rely, I think, a lot on their ability to penetrate, to disrupt plays and have more people than you have, and those guys get to the ball. So, it could be [Grady] Jarrett, [Dontari] Poe - any of those guys could be disrupting the play - linebackers, but they're quick and they're hard to fit up on and just move out of there. They get off blocks well.
Q: How unique a skill set does Deion Jones have in that he is able to play all three downs, cover and rush the passer?
BB: I mean, he was a good player in college, good athlete, has a good skillset. You know, he fits well in their system. He had a couple big plays for them last week with the interception. They had the other one called back, but he's got good speed, range and he's an instinctive player. He knows where the ball is.
Q: Desmond Trufant was hurt in the Super Bowl. How much does he change their defense when he's in at corner?
BB: Yeah, he definitely helps them. I mean, he's a good, solid player. He can play outside and inside. They mainly play him outside, but he's certainly capable of moving inside with matchups, or I'm sure if they needed him in the slot, he could play in there. But, he's quick, he runs well, he's got good ball skills, an experienced player, so he's a good player on that defense.
Q: When they have all of their receivers healthy, is there one of those guys that plays primarily in the slot?
BB: More [Mohamed] Sanu, but they'll move him around.
Q: What does [Taylor] Gabriel give them on offense?
BB: A lot of explosive plays. I mean, he's a good receiver on all three levels - certainly deep, intermediate routes and he's had some big plays on slip screens and under routes and things like that. He's a fast, explosive player. If he gets a little bit of space, he can turn it into a big play in a hurry. So, really, all those guys are pretty good in a lot of ways. I mean, they're fast, they can get down the field, they're hard to tackle for one reason or another, whether it's size or quickness or speed. And, again, they stretch the defense all the way through, so if you back off them, they get the ball in space. If you get up on them, then they can get over the top, and they're pretty good intermediate route runners - comebacks, in-cuts, curls, things like that, timing plays that are featured in this West-Coast type of offense.
Q: It looks like last week they used Julio Jones on some screen routes. What makes him difficult in those shorter-yardage situations? We typically think of him as more of a vertical threat.
BB: Yeah, I wouldn't say that. I mean, he catches a lot of in-cuts, a lot of over routes, out routes, the one he caught against us last year. He's good on catch-and-run plays, he's hard to tackle, he's strong, slants, so he's pretty good on everything. You know, same thing, but I mean, they screened everybody. They screened the backs and the receivers and Gabriel, Jones. I mean, they all can get the ball. They're not just going to screen to one guy and just key on that guy. They mix it up.
Q: When you acquire a player right before or during the season versus in the offseason, do you have to have a longer leash on the player that you acquire so close to the season since you don't have the opportunity to evaluate him in as long of a period?
BB: Well, I'd say, look, each situation is different. There's no book on this. I think the acquisitions that you make at the beginning of the season, in the spring or in the offseason, you're looking at roster building. You're looking at players that you feel like would be competitive in a certain position or in a certain role or in a combination of roles that would be competitive for your team. That role might be starter, it might be as a rotational player, but whatever that [is], you're looking for a guy that's going to be competitive in those roles. When you acquire a guy at the beginning of the season or in the season, like [Kyle] Van Noy or [Cassius] Marsh or [Johnson] Bademosi or Akeem Ayers or [Jonathan] Casillas or [Aqib] Talib or guys that we've done that with, you're usually acquiring that player to fill a specific role at that time. He's not like in competition with eight other guys for something. I mean, the reason you've acquired him is because A, he's available and it's worked out and all that, but B, you see a role for that player that you can use. Eric Rowe, whoever it happens to be - whether it's the first week, the third week, the eighth week, whenever it is - that's different than you have injured players, you lack depth at a certain position and you sign somebody who's say out of football to come in and give you depth at that position. I mean, that's usually a little bit of a different - not saying you couldn't sign a guy for a role, but I'm saying if you trade for a guy, you're definitely giving up something to get somebody to put into a certain position or role, whatever that happens to be. So, I'd say that's a little bit of a different - it's different than when you get a guy in March. Now, certainly in March or April, you have a lot more time with that player, but your team's not really established at that point, either. You're still trying to see how it's all going to play out. Well, in September or October, you have a lot better idea how it's playing out and if you acquire a player, generally it's to put that player into a role that you feel is necessary and that he can do. Now, sometimes it's more than that, sometimes it's less than that - I'm not saying it's perfect - and sometimes it takes time for that. It's like Kyle Van Noy's role this year is a lot different than what it was last year, and it changed over the course of the year. And, other things happen, too. What you do at the end of September for one reason, well by the middle of November, those reasons may not be valid anymore. You might be in a whole different ball game that you have to - and then maybe that player fits into that new situation or maybe he doesn't. Maybe somebody else fits into it. I mean, I don't know. So, you can't oversimplify it because each case is different, but that's the best I can do to explain it.
Q: Do you feel like you can take more risks with a player you acquire in the offseason because he's going to be competing for a role rather than shifting him into one specific role?
BB: Well, again, I wouldn't use the terms that you use. So, I'm not saying you're wrong, I just don't really look at it that way. Again, when you acquire a player, it doesn't mean that you don't think the player has value. I mean, I think Brandin Cooks has a lot of value, but what exactly it is, how it's all going to turn out with him back in April, I don't know. You know, we haven't even run a play yet, so that's what the spring and that's what training camp is for. Maybe it's kind of, 'Well, this is what I envision it being,' but it turns out to be something different, like Randy Moss. You know, we got Randy Moss. We kind of, I would say, thought it was going to be one thing. Well, it was a lot more than that. Wes Welker, same thing. We kind of thought it would be one thing - playing slot, return punts. Well, it turned out to be a lot more than that. Sometimes it turns out to be a little bit less, but you know you're going to go through that process with a player. When you get a guy the first of October, there's no process. You've got a game that week. I mean, you've got to get the guy ready to play a role - Akiem Hicks - and then a month later or two months later his role might be different, you know, and there's possible growth there. Again, I wouldn't say it's more or less. It's a different timing. You're in a different state. Your team's in a different state, and the player has a different opportunity. A player [that] comes in in April has as much of an opportunity to compete for a role on the team as the guy who's been here for five years. I mean, they're going to get the same reps in practice, they're going to be in the same meetings, they're going to go out there and compete on the field. We'll see how it turns out. I don't know. A guy that comes in here after missing all spring, all training camp and a few weeks of regular season game plans and adjustments and everything, I mean, there's no way he can compete with players who have been through all that. But, usually you bring a guy in if you have a role for him. I mean, otherwise, why would you bring a guy in if you already have two guys that can do this job? You don't really need a third guy to come in and do that. Look, depth is always good to have, but you know what I mean. Realistically, how many guys do you need in a certain role? There's probably going to be other things on your team that you need more.
Q: Usually when we talk about guys that are hard to tackle, they are the bigger, physical guys. Does Gabriel's comparative lack of size also make him hard to bring down?
BB: Yeah, well, he's fast and he's quick. He's a hard guy to get a solid hit on. But, look, they're all hard to tackle. I mean, [Devonta] Freeman's hard to tackle because of his power and his balance and, I would say, his vision. [Derrick] Coleman's hard to tackle because he's hard to get to. He's fast and he's elusive and he's got good quickness. Sanu's hard to tackle because he's big and he's strong. I mean, he's a hard guy to wrap up. Jones is like that, too. Gabriel's quick. He's elusive. [Andre] Roberts is hard to tackle because he runs hard and he's fast. If you don't get a solid hit on him, he's through the arm tackles. So, guys have different styles. Guys have different ways of breaking tackles. Defensively, that's an issue of knowing who you're tackling and how you want to tackle them. I mean, I don't think you want to tackle Freeman the same way you would want to tackle Gabriel. You're still going to make the tackle and there's fundamentals involved in terms of leverage and wrapping up and so forth, but those guys have a lot different styles. But, they're both hard. Look, there's fundamentals to leverage, there's fundamentals to tackling, but different players have different strengths. Some guys are stiff-arm players, some guys drop their shoulders, some guys are jump-cut guys, some guys are spinners, some guys they challenge your leverage and cut back, other guys try to outrun you. So, you've got to adjust and adapt to what - look, the guy can do whatever he wants to do, so you have to tackle what it is. But, you know their certain tendencies of ways guys like to run or carry the ball or break tackles. And, I think if you know that a guy's a spinner, then you tackle him a little bit different and [with] a little more awareness than if he's a guy that you know is going to always drop his shoulder and try to get low and try to grind out a few extra yards on contact. I mean, it's just a different running style. I mean, look, the guys that can do them all, they're obviously the hardest ones to tackle. They have multiple pitches they can throw and it's hard to hit them.