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NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - INSIDE SLANT
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan couldn't hide his enthusiasm about the news.
He was elated that Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will not be leaving to become the head football coach at Boise State.
Koetter, 54, said he's happy with the Falcons and only pursued the Boise State position because of his Idaho roots. He is a native of Pocatello, Idaho, and was Boise State's head coach from 1998 to 2000.
"It's great," Ryan said. "I know that Boise State is special spot for him with him being from Idaho. Selfishly, I'm happy that he's back. He's a great coach. Certainly, he's made me better over the last two years and I look forward to working with him."
Koetter joined the Falcons staff before the 2012 season after spending five seasons as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator. He had previously served as the head coach at Arizona State (2001-06) and Boise State (1998-2000).
Last season, Ryan set single season franchise records for attempts
(615), completions (422), completion percentage (68.6), yards (4,719) and touchdowns (32) with Koetter on board.
"I think Dirk he's a really good football coach and a really good coordinator," Ryan said. "I learned a ton from him in the few years he's been here. We work well together. I'm excited that he's going to be here moving forward."
This season, the offense has sputtered about because of a porous offensive line and a rash of injuries to key players like wide receiver Julio Jones, fullback Bradie Ewing, left tackle Sam Baker, running back Steven Jackson and wide receiver Roddy White.
The Falcons are ranked 22nd in scoring (21.7 points per game), 13th in total offense (349.1 yards per game), 30th in rushing (81.2 yards per game) and sixth in passing (267.8 yards per game.
"We can both push this offseason and try to improve," Ryan said. "We can find ways to be better as an offense. I'm excited to work with him and try and do that."
Koetter is well respected in NFL circles and is under contract through the 2014 season.
"Dirk's been an integral part of the success we've had and he's going to continue to be here," coach Mike Smith said. "We look forward to continuing to work with him."
Koetter's retention means quarterback Matt Ryan won't have to work with his third coordinator since the Falcons drafted him in 2008.
Atlanta's offensive production has declined this season from last. In 2012 the Falcons ranked eighth in total yards and seventh and points; this season they are 13th in yards and 22nd in points.
Koetter said the offense hasn't met expectations.
In addition to some of the key numbers being down, opposing defenders have hit Ryan 76 times and recorded 31 sacks for a total of 107 hits, according to NFL statistics.
Ryan said he's still holding up well in spite of the punishment.
"I feel good, in all honesty," Ryan said. "I feel really good for this time of the year. I think everybody has certain things that creep up late in the season. I've been able to practice every practice this year and that's a good thing."
SERIES HISTORY: 23rd regular-season meeting. Redskins lead 14-7-1. The last meeting was a 24-17 Atlanta victory on Oct. 7, 2012 in Landover, Md. The Falcons have won the last three meetings.
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - NOTES, QUOTES
NOLAN LOOKS TO FUTURE: While it appears that Boise State has zeroed in on Falcons' offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Atlanta's defensive coordinator Mike Nolan declined to say whether he plans to return in 2013.
The Falcons' defense has been worse than its offense. Nolan has run the defense for seven different NFL teams since 1993.
"That's the team's decision, not mine. So that's a question for later," Nolan said.
If Koetter and Nolan are not back and head coach Mike Smith is retained, he would have his third set of coordinators. Koetter and Nolan followed Mike Mularkey and Brian VanGorder and have been in place for the past two seasons.
The Falcons' defense has been hit by injuries even harder than the offense in 2013. As the losses have piled up, the team has played rookies more regularly.
On defense in Sunday's 22-21 defeat at Green Bay, linebackers Paul Worrilow (71 snaps, 100 percent) and Joplo Bartu (25, 35 percent), defensive ends Malliciah Goodman (25, 35 percent) and Stansly Maponga (15, 21 percent), cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (71, 100 percent) and Robert Alford (71, 100 percent) and safety Zeke Motta (53, 75 percent) were rookies who all played major snaps.
Nolan said one positive for the season has been identifying unknown rookie talent such as Worrilow and Bartu, who both were signed as undrafted college free agents. Nolan said he also liked some of the schemes he came up with this year, even if the results didn't show it.
"So going down the road, there are some things we did that we will be able to utilize in the future," Nolan said. "And maybe it's good they didn't go so well because other people won't be expecting us to use them, thinking, 'Well, that couldn't be anything they want to carry over.'"
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Rookie Ryan Schraeder replaced Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle and played 71 percent of the snaps Sunday. Linebacker Akeem Dent didn't play a single defensive snap against Green Bay. Rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu are now mainstays at linebacker.
Smith said there's "no tension" between the goals of getting young players experience and winning games. It's possible the drop-off from veterans to rookies at those positions is small, if there is a drop-off at all.
Smith said the team wants to see the rookies get more playing time but emphasized that the players earned it through their performance. Smith said the veterans know the reality.
"Asante, like a lot of guys on this team, understands the situation we are in and understand these (rookies) have worked hard and deserve a chance," Smith said.
When safety Thomas DeCoud left the game with an injury, he was replaced by rookie Zeke Motta. At that point, the Falcons had four rookies in on defense: Alford, Worrilow, Motta and cornerback Desmond Trufant.
In addition, Bartu and rookie defensive linemen Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga played significant snaps.
"We are all hungry for that opportunity to get on the field," Worrilow said. "We all have a lot to prove. Whether you are a first-round draft pick or an undrafted guy, you want to prove to your coaches and your teammates you are a ball player and you are out there for a reason."
One veteran who is exempt from stepping aside for the youth movement is tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is retiring after the season. Gonzalez played every offensive snap against the Packers while rookie Levine Toilolo was in for a total of 11 snaps.
"There are certain guys that are head and shoulders above other players in terms of the playing time they should have and Tony is one of them," Smith said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 81.2 -- Falcons average 81.2 yards rushing per game, which ranks tied for 30th in the league.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I believe he was a second-round pick behind RGIII, playing in Mike Shanahan's offense, it's a running and hard-nosed offense. They run downhill. I'm pretty sure that Kirk Cousins is going to operate the offense as usually. For us, we just have to be on point this week." -- Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi on facing Kirk Cousins, who was actually drafted in the fourth round, and not Robert Griffin III.
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
It certainly appears as if the Falcons are looking to the future by playing rookies over veterans as the season takes its last circles around the drain.
But coach Mike Smith insists the Falcons (3-10) are making lineup decisions based on "what is the best chance to win the football game."
If that's the case, Smith and his coaches have determined the Falcons are a better team without cornerback Asante Samuel on the field. An 11th-year veteran, Samuel was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Robert Alford on Sunday at Green Bay and didn't play a snap for the first time this season when healthy.
Samuel didn't address reporters after the 22-21 Falcons defeat. He also wasn't in the locker room during the media access period Monday and has declined interview requests for several weeks.
Smith said Samuel isn't upset about his benching.
"He's a team player," Smith said. "He's a mentor to these young guys and he will continue to be that."
Samuel isn't the only veteran to spend more time on the sideline as the season winds down.
--TE Tony Gonzalez leads all active players and owns the NFL record for tight ends with 108 touchdown receptions. He has a team-leading six touchdown receptions in 2013, including one TD catch in each of the last two games. Gonzalez has caught touchdowns in consecutive games 26 times in his career. Additionally, Gonzalez has caught at least six touchdowns in each of the last six seasons.
--QB Matt Ryan's 146 career touchdown passes are the second most in franchise history, trailing quarterback Steve Bartkowski's mark of 154 touchdown passes. Ryan finished the game completing 20 of 35 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and an 81.4 passer rating against the Packers. It marked Ryan's 47th career multi-touchdown game and the eighth-time he's tossed two-or-more touchdown this season.
--LB Sean Weatherspoon scored his first career touchdown, returning an interception 71 yards for a score inside the final two minutes of the first half. Weatherspoon intercepted Packers quarterback Matt Flynn after his pass was tipped by defensive tackle Peria Jerry, then bounced off of linebacker Paul Worrilow's foot and into Weatherspoon's hands. Weatherspoon is the second Falcon to return an interception for a touchdown this season, joining defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Atlanta has scored three defensive touchdowns this season and owns a 2-1 record in those games.
--LB Paul Worrilow had a game-high 12 stops (seven solo) against Green Bay. He also added his first career sack, while combining with defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi for another sack. The undrafted rookie out of Delaware also added one tackle for loss and one pass defense. Massaquoi recorded five total tackles (three solo) with a career best 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and a pair of stops on special teams.
--WR Roddy White continued his strong late season push catching a game-high eight passes for 74 yards against the Packers. In his last two games White has totaled 18 receptions for 217 yards.
--FS Thomas DeCoud suffered a concussion during the first quarter at Green Bay and is now in the league-mandated protocol for head injuries. DeCoud will be cleared to play once his symptoms completely subside, he returns to baseline functioning and he can escalate his activities without incident.
--RB Antone Smith left the Packers game with a knee injury. "We do not think it is anything significant," coach Mike Smith said. Smith did not practice on Wednesday.
--TE Tony Gonzalez (toe) was limited in practice but is expected to play against Washington.
--S Zeke Motta (hand) was limited in practice but is expected to play against Washington.
--LB Sean Weatherspoon (shoulder) was limited in practice but is expected to play against Washington.
--WR Roddy White (knee) was limited in practice but is expected to play against Washington.
--LB Paul Worrilow (shoulder) was limited in practice but is expected to play against Washington.
The Falcons will try to run the ball against Washington.
Falcons running back Steven Jackson's average of 4.7 yards on 15 carries against the Packers was his most efficient production since he had 77 yards on 11 carries (7.0 average) in the season opener at New Orleans.
Jackson was hurt on the first series in Week 2 against St. Louis, missed the next four games and has had lackluster production. He said his recent surge has nothing to do with being motivated to show he's still going strong at age 30.
"I think my play and my reputation speaks for itself," Jackson said. "I'm not big into trying to prove anything to anyone. As long as my teammates and my coaching staff believe in me that's all that really matters."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall, who has 42 career interceptions, vs. Falcons WR Roddy White, who is making a late-season push.
Hall was re-signed the Redskins this offseason after being released. He lead the Redskins with three interceptions has returned two for touchdowns. White appears to be finally over his right high ankle sprain and hamstring injuries. He's caught 18 passes for 217 yards over the past two games.
--Redskins RB Alfred Morris, who put together another 1,000-yard season, vs. Falcons LB Paul Worrilow, who's second on the team with 109 tackles.
Morris, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards as a rookie last season, has 1,027 yards on 218 carries and six touchdowns. He ran for 115 yards on 18 carries against the Falcons last season. Worrilow, an undrafted rookie from Delaware, is getting more comfortable in Mike Nolan's schemes and is playing faster.
--Redskins' coverage units, who are coming off a poor showing, vs. Falcons returners Jacquizz Rodgers and Robert McClain.
Last week against the Chiefs, the Redskins gave up 300 yards on nine returns. The gave up a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Falcons do not have a return for a touchdown this season. Rodgers is averaging 22.4 yards on 20 kickoff returns and McClain is averaging 9.2 yards on 11 returns.