WEEK 7: FALCONS CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Mike Smith
On how much QB Matt Ryan has meant to the Falcons' franchise: "Well, Matt [Ryan] has been an integral part of [the] success that we've had over the last six-plus years. He's a very cerebral quarterback that has a very good skill set as well. And he has been our leader since really the first game that he played. And he's a special person, both on and off the field."
On what he has seen from CB Jimmy Smith: "I think Jimmy [Smith] has a great skill set to play the corner position. And you'll talk about putting a corner together – 6-2, 210 pounds, 4-4 [40-yard speed] and has the ability to stay in phase and mirror man. That's what you're looking for in a corner. And those are really his measurables. I think he's ascending to be one of the top corners in the NFL."
On what he saw from the Ravens' offensive line against Tampa Bay: "I thought that they did a very nice job. To see a college free agent playing the left tackle position, [G/T James Hurst] did an outstanding job. I think that speaks volumes to Ozzie [Newsome] and his staff in terms of putting together a roster. The other guy [LG John Urschel] was a fifth-round pick, and they did a very good job. And the offense, obviously, didn't miss a beat with the performance that they had there in Tampa."
On whether he sees similarities between QB Joe Flacco and QB Matt Ryan: "Yes, I do. We did a lot of work on both of these guys, and they're very similar in a lot of ways – the height, weight, speed measurables. And Joe [Flacco] has done a great job leading the Baltimore Raven team. And Matt [Ryan] has done a very good job, a great job, of leading our team. And I think they're both elite quarterbacks. They have been playing at an elite level, in my opinion, for quite some time – both of them."
On how seriously the Falcons considered drafting QB Joe Flacco: "That was a long time ago. To me, that was a decision that was an organizational decision, and there were a lot of moving parts. There's not a whole lot of consensus across the board when you start talking about top-level quarterbacks. And both [Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan] have played extremely well throughout their careers."
On what he has seen from OLB Terrell Suggs on film this year compared to previous years: "I don't think Terrell [Suggs] looks any different. He maybe thinned out a little bit; that's just looking at tape. I don't know, that could be the taper of his jersey. (laughter) He's a force to be reckoned with in their base defense. He could be set to the edge, and then on third down when he gets it cranked up, he's a guy that you have to always account for and often times put more resources on that side, the side that he's rushing from."
On whether it's a different feeling facing the Ravens since he coached here: "It is, because there are some people there that were there when I was there. It's a great organization. Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Byrne, they're at the top in what they do. Steve Bisciotti is a great owner. So, it's always good to go back and compete against your friends."
QB Matt Ryan
On if he follows QB Joe Flacco's career since they both came out of the same draft class: "Absolutely. I've gotten to know Joe over the years and really have a lot of respect for him, really like him, and I'm happy and proud of the way his career has turned out. I think he's done a great job in Baltimore. We don't get to play each other all that often and don't get to see as many games as you would like. It's just kind of the nature of the deal, but from a distance I followed him and have always been impressed."
On how the league's penalty enforcement against defensive backs has impacted the Falcons' offense and the league as a whole:"Obviously, it was a point of emphasis during the preseason and really early on in the season as well. I think it's something that everybody has had to adjust to, and I think that it doesn't change the way we approach it from an offensive standpoint. We kind of have the same mentality going into the games as we've had since I've been here. And so, I think it's one of those things [where] there are certain adjustments every year, certain points of emphasis that the rules committee and the league throws out, and as players you try and adjust as quickly as you can. But for us, we really haven't changed the way we approach it."
On how things would have been different for him if he was drafted by the Ravens in 2008 and if he thinks about that:"No, not really. You never know how a draft is going to turn out. I feel fortunate to be here in Atlanta. I couldn't have asked to end up in a better place. And so, I don't really think about that."
On if he has also gotten to know QB Joe Flacco away from the football field:"I've seen him at various different charity events and things like that during the offseason during our career. I really got to know him through the draft process, Combine and just different events that you end up seeing each other at, and I've always enjoyed spending time with him. And then when we see each other … We played quite a bit during the preseason during our careers, so you get to see him then and catch up a little bit, but that's kind of the extent of it."
On if the Ravens were a consideration among teams that would've potentially drafted him:"I think you don't know as a player in those situations. You don't know because there are various different things going on. Obviously, they selected Joe [Flacco] that year as well, so they were looking at quarterbacks, but you just don't know. You don't know how it's going to shake out, and I'm glad I ended up where I did."
On whom he believes has had the better start to his career when compared to QB Joe Flacco:"I think we've both played well at different times. I don't think it's something that I think about all that often."
On how Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has helped him improve his game:"I think Dirk has been great. This is [my] third year working with him, and I think as far as changing me or anything like that, I think he's just taught me different things. I think each time you have a different coach come in, you hear things put in a different way and you try and take the best things of each coach you've worked with and apply it to yourself. And Dirk has a really good knowledge of the quarterback position, has had some really good insight, and I think has done a great job with our offense. In the past, specifically week to week, he's been really good in the game-planning and really good in the fundamentals of quarterback play."
On his impressions of the progress CB Jimmy Smith has made this season:"Jimmy is playing at a high level. Certainly, he's a big, physical corner – does a really good job in press coverage. He's strong at kind of re-routing wide receivers on their releases. So, I've been very impressed with him. When you watch them on tape, I think their defense as a whole [is] very physical [with a] very good front seven, [and they] have been that way for a long time. I think the front end matches up well with the back end."
On if CB Jimmy Smith is one of the better cornerbacks that he's seen in the league:"He's a very good player. He really is. He's a very good player, and [he] is off to a very good start this season."
On how big of a game this will be for the Falcons:"It's huge. We're six games into the season [and] we're behind the eight ball a little bit, but certainly not out of anything. I think as you get further and further into a season, sense of urgency always heightens. And so, I think there's a real sense of urgency in our locker room. And we have to focus on having a great week of preparation, doing a great job on the practice field and trying to take that and put that into our performance on Sunday. And I think if we just focus on playing our best on Sunday, that's where our mindset has to be."
On if there's any trend indicating the Falcons' struggles on the road:"We have to finish. We have to be better in the fourth quarter. I think our last three losses – home and on the road – we've either been tied or ahead late in the third going into the fourth quarter, and we have to find a way to finish. We haven't done that up until this point. How we do it, we have to figure that out. We have to find a way to figure that out during the week. In order for us to be successful, I think we have to finish games better."
On the experience of being on HBO's "Hard Knocks" earlier in the year:"I thought it was a good experience. From a fan's perspective, I've watched the show before for other teams and have always enjoyed it. It gives them a unique insight into what goes on day to day. I don't know if we'll ever do it again or not, but my experience was positive. The people from NFL Films were great to work with." On if he liked having that many people around during "Hard Knocks":"I like privacy – there's no doubt about it. (laughter) For the most part, we're off the camera at the quarterback position, but it was what it was. Like, dislike, whatever – it was a good experience and I'm glad we did it."