Nolan not pleased with D's performance yet

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
9:00
AM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Mike Nolan isn’t the least bit satisfied.

Sure, the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator saw positive signs from his young players during a Week 7 win over Tampa Bay. At the same time, Nolan had a close-up view from the sideline of the issues that needed to be corrected.

He watched rookie defensive ends Stansly Maponga and Malliciah Goodman both pick up 15-yard penalties. Maponga was flagged for hitting Bucs tight end Tim Wright while already down. Goodman was flagged for roughing the passer.

Umenyiora
Samuel
Nolan thought the call on Goodman was a bit excessive because Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon was overly dramatic, but the coach obviously was upset with Maponga’s boneheaded play.

"I thought that Maponga’s was late," Nolan said. "He’s smarter than that. He’s played football a long time."

In terms of blitzing, Nolan was pleased with how his players executed, as a whole. At the same time, he said his rookies were "50/50" in terms of executing their blitzes. He pointed to the second series of the game, when rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow accidentally knocked rookie cornerback Robert Alford out of the play. Neither got a hand on Glennon, who completed a 14-yard pass to tight end Tom Crabtree on third-and-11.

"When people talk about playing young players, those are the things you’re talking about," Nolan said. "That’s the difference between guys who have done it a lot and guys who haven’t.

"For example, some guys if they come in there -- a veteran player -- and feels another guy too close to him, he’s going to do something to adjust to make it right. Whereas a young player will say, 'Look, I’m just told to do this. Here’s where I go. I’m not going to adjust anything because I don’t want it to be on my shoulders.’ It’s no different than driving. When you first start to drive, you don’t see a lot of things. The more you drive, all of sudden you’ll see a flash and slow down and look."

That’s not to say the veteran players were perfect, although safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud were flawless with their blitzes that led to DeCoud’s 30-yard touchdown off a fumble caused by Moore. Besides, Nolan wouldn’t have had to dial up so many blitzes if the pressure from the front four was where it needed to be.

He used defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux as an example, despite Babineaux's consistent pressure.

"He typically plays a good game most all the time," Nolan said. "I wish he’d make the play when he’s in the backfield all the time, though. He gets in the backfield as much as anybody I’ve ever been around. But damn, it’s only about half the time that he’s getting them down."

Nolan even gave veteran cornerback Asante Samuel a gentle nudge while explaining the development of rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Alford.

"He plays a very different game than a lot of guys," Nolan said of Samuel. "Sometimes you like it, sometimes, maybe not as much. But at the same time, he’s got a great ability -- has had -- to get the ball and do some things. And that’s all through experience. He wasn’t doing those things as a rookie."

As for defensive end Osi Umenyiora, the other defensive veteran with nine or more years of experience, Nolan had no complaints.

"He is our most productive defensive player," Nolan said. "He’s got a touchdown. He’s got four sacks. And he’s got a lot of plays.

"Our front guys have done all right. When you win, it’s a lot better, though."

The Falcons enter Week 8 against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals ranked 20th in the league in total defense, 23rd in scoring defense, 25th in sacks per pass play and 30th in third-down conversion percentage.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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