The Standard Journal

Falcons shaking up defensive staff

- The Associated Press Atlanta defensive coordinato­r Richard Smith signals to his players during practice.

FLOWERY BRANCH — After squanderin­g a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons are shaking up their defensive staff.

The team said Wednesday that coach Dan Quinn has dismissed coordinato­r Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, though there’s a chance Smith could stay with the Falcons in an advisory role.

The changes mean the NFC champions will have two new coordinato­rs next season. Kyle Shanahan left to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and was replaced as offensive coordinato­r by Steve Sarkisian .

Also, the Falcons promoted Keith Carter to running backs coach with Bobby Turner reportedly leaving to join Shanahan’s staff in San Francisco. In addition, they will need a new quarterbac­ks coach; Matt LaFleur is expected to be named offensive coordinato­r of the Los Angeles Rams.

Smith will likely be replaced by a coach already on staff. The Falcons are considerin­g defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, linebacker­s coach Jeff Ulbrich and defensive passing game coordinato­r Jerome Henderson.

Manuel interviewe­d for the de- fensive coordinato­r post in Jacksonvil­le last season.

The 61-year-old Smith served as defensive coordinato­r during Quinn’s first two seasons in Atlanta, after previously working as a linebacker­s coach in Denver. He has more than a quarter-century of NFL coaching experience.

Under Smith, t he Falcons showed significan­t improvemen­t over the second half of the season and two playoff victories with a unit that often started as many four rookies and four second-year players.

But in the Super Bowl, Atlanta couldn’t protect a 28-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

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