Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the mastermind of the team’s best unit last season, usually is the first person off the field after practice.
He walks at a brisk pace, nearly trotting in order to get to his office to start watching film.
Koetter doesn’t want to hear about the dazzling numbers that his offense amassed last season or about how the “pick your poison” attack ranked eighth (369.1 yards per game) in total offense in the NFL.
“We’ll, you’re pleased until (you remember that) we didn’t quite finish (the NFC Championship) game,” Koetter said. “We just didn’t quite get it done. You’re never pleased unless you win the Super Bowl.”
He seems to know that if the Falcons are going to reach the Super Bowl, the offense likely will have to lead way in the NFL’s pass-first era.
“We have a lot of good players on offense,” Koetter said. “When we get everybody firing on the same cylinders, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Koetter’s challenges for the coming season are much different than last season, his first with the Falcons.
Last season, Koetter had to change the mindset from a run-first plodding attack, to a more up-tempo passing operation that had quarterback Matt Ryan spreading the ball to receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
Running back Michael Turner struggled, and the team finished ranked 29th (87.3 yards per game) in rushing.
The Falcons coaxed tight end Tony Gonzalez to put off retirement and return, added running back Steven Jackson and must revamp their offensive line.
Koetter is not worried about Gonzalez returning to form, once he returns to practice Sunday from family leave. He’s enthralled about incorporating Jackson, the game’s leading active rusher, into the attack.
“The main thing with Steven is that he’s such a complete back,” Koetter said. “His body of work in the NFL bares that out.
“Steven does everything well. He runs the ball well. He catches the ball. He’s good in the screen game. He’s excellent in protection.”
Koetter still plans to keep backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers involved.
“Quizz is a very valuable part of our offense,” Koetter said. “We still have to get Quizz his touches whether if it’s on kickoff returns, throwing it to him out of the backfield or the screen game.”
But seeing Jackson up close for an extended period of time has intrigued even Koetter.
“For a 240-pound guy, I think most people would think of him as a power back, but when you watch him out there his agility and quickness for a guy his size, jumps out at you,” Koetter said. “Even for all of the years of watching him, even going back to his Oregon State days, I guess I never really give him credit for as quick as he is.
“His change of direction for a guy that’s 240 pounds is impressive.”
How quickly the revamped offensive line develops is key to Koetter’s operation. With the injury to right tackle Mike Johnson, the Falcons must determine if Lamar Holmes or Ryan Schraeder is ready to man the key position, which mainly requires keeping rushers out of Ryan’s face in passing situations.
Holmes and Schraeder are to face Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on Thursday, then the Falcons are to make a decision after the third exhibition game at Tennessee on Aug. 24. They’ll see former Georgia Tech standout Derrick Morgan in the all-important dress-rehearsal game in Nashville.
“It’s a work in progress,” Koetter acknowledges.
Koetter, who coached Suggs at Arizona State, knows the tackles will face a stiff challenge in Baltimore. He’s looking for some consistency.
“Those guys are both good enough to get it done,” Koetter said. “They just haven’t played very much. It’s knowing what to do and then doing it.”
Part of the evaluation of the young tackles entails determining how much on-field help the Falcons will have to send their way in the regular season.
“We have a whole bunch of different ways that we give guys help from week to week,” Koetter said. “It does change how you attack people, but if the quarterback gets sacked, it doesn’t matter how many guys you have out running routes.”