FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – While offensive players such as Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez expressed support for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter moving forward, at least one Atlanta Falcon did the same for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, known as the team’s vocal leader, sees no reason why Nolan’s status for next season should be questioned, even despite the team’s defensive woes.
"We’re really comfortable with Mike,’’ Weatherspoon said. "Everybody on our defense really speaks highly of him. They really enjoy working with him. We would hope that they keep him around here.
"But, you know, it’s a business, man. Things happen. And you just have to continue to keep your focus on the right path. You have to keep working regardless of the situation.’’
When asked point blank if he expected to come back next season, Nolan responded, "Come back? That’s the team’s decision, not mine.’’
Nolan went on to talk about the roadblocks encountered by the team this season, specifically the inordinate amount of injuries. He said he has been pleased with some of the defensive gameplans but not totally satisfied with the execution of those game plans.
Nolan’s defense ranks 30th (out of 32 teams) against the run, 29th in points allowed, and 26th in total defense as the Falcons prepare to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
On a positive note, the struggles of the 3-10 Falcons have allowed Nolan to get a closer look at some of his young defenders as the team continues to build toward the future.
"I think the future is bright,’’ Weatherspoon said. "I looked on the tape from last week and I remember one play – an outside running play to (Packers running back) Eddie Lacy – you see the guys who made the tackle were rookies. You look and see [Stansly] Maponga, Malliciah Goodman, [Paul] Worrilow. You see Joplo [Bartu]. You see [Desmond] Trufant.
"All the guys in the frame, they’re really stepping up here lately and playing a lot of ball. It gives you confidence going into the future. They’ll know what they’re doing. They’re going to be comfortable playing ball. And I think the only way to go is up for them.’’