Falcons prepare for read-option, pistol

Their offseason program barely has begun but the Atlanta Falcons already are devising game plans for the upcoming season.

“We’ve already put one day in the books, where it was pretty much just about the way we are defending the read-option,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re heading in that direction.”

It already was widely reported that Atlanta’s defensive staff spent some time at Clemson studying the read-option offense in March. But it’s worth exploring this matter a little further.

The read-option and the pistol are the hot offensive trends in the NFL and the Falcons had mixed results against them last season. Carolina’s Cam Newton put up big numbers against the Falcons using the read option in two regular-season games. Atlanta had some success against Washington’s Robert Griffin III.

But the Atlanta defense had problems with Seattle’s read-option and San Francisco’s pistol offense in the postseason. All four of those teams are on Atlanta’s schedule in 2013.

Clemson’s offense employs aspects of the read-option and the pistol, so it was a good idea for Atlanta’s defensive coaches to exchange ideas with the college’s offensive coaches. If the Falcons are going to have success in the upcoming season, they’ll have to defend the read option and the pistol.

“The Wildcat was rolling for a while,” Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Then I think it changed. There are some incredibly intelligent defensive coordinators and driven head coaches who are telling their defensive coordinators, 'Figure it out and figure it out now.'"

Count Atlanta coach Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan among that group. The real proof will come on the field, but Smith and Nolan already are getting their team ready for the read-option and the pistol.