Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn announced several significant changes to the coaching staff Monday.
Quinn moved assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Raheem Morris over to the defense to work with the secondary, assistant special- teams coach/offensive assistant Bernie Parmalee back to running backs coach, and running backs coach Dave Brock to receivers coach.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said everything would be evaluated, including Quinn, during last week's bye with the Falcons sitting at 1-7 and in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Blank said he did not plan to make an immediate coaching change with Quinn but hinted changes would be coming.
The most significant move involves Morris, the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who came to the Falcons in 2015 as the defensive backs coach and then was moved to work with the wide receivers in 2016. Most of Morris' coaching time has been spent as a defensive backs coach and he was once the defensive coordinator at Kansas State.
"Part of his strengths are communication in the secondary, and we felt that was a spot that needed our attention at this space,'' Quinn told the media following Monday's practice. "For us, it was all hands on deck. But you can imagine that is one of Rah's many powers, his ability to communicate. And we wanted to make sure from a technique side, he'd bring fresh eyes over to the secondary and the communication space.''
The Falcons have struggled with communication in the secondary all season, including in their last game against Seattle when they allowed Seahawks rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf to catch two wide-open touchdown passes in the end zone from Russell Wilson.
The Falcons rank last in third-down defense in allowing opponents to convert 53 percent of those opportunities. They rank 31st out of 32 teams in red-zone defense, allowing 68.8 percent conversions. Atlanta has also allowed 15 explosive pass plays (30+ yard gains) this season, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. And the Falcons surrender 31.3 points per game, third-highest in the league behind the Miami Dolphins (32.0 ppg.) and the Buccaneers (31.5 ppg.).
Quinn said having Julio Jones at wide receiver as one of the leaders of the team is part of the reason he decided to move Morris back over to defense. Quinn emphasized how effective Morris is in terms of communication. The Falcons have had Jerome Henderson as their defensive pass game coordinator and secondary coach.
"No better way to add to the strength of the staff then to add Raheem into the secondary,'' Quinn said. "Have some fresh eyes on some new topics. We started that today.''
Henderson will keep the same title, and Doug Mallory will remain as the defensive backs coach.
This will be the second significant change Quinn has made after taking over as defensive coordinator this season. He announced a couple weeks ago that he had distributed some of the defensive playcalling to his assistants and said linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich has taken on a large part of those responsibilities.
The Falcons also need a boost in the running game, with Parmalee back in the role he had last season before being switched to assistant special- teams/offensive assistant this season. Through eighth games, the Falcons rank 29th in the league in rushing at just 68.5 rushing yards per game. Two-time Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman averages 3.4 yards per carry.
The Falcons also made some roster changes on special teams during the bye, finding a new kicker and punter. The Falcons signed former New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen on Monday after releasing Kasey Redfern last week. The Falcons had Redfern as the punter after Matt Bosher was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury and after Bosher's replacement, Matt Wile, was waived with an injury settlement. The Falcons released veteran kicker Matt Bryant after he missed five field goals and one extra point. The team signed Younghoe Koo to replace Bryant.
The Falcons begin NFC South play Sunday at New Orleans.