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Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith Q-A

    <span>              <span style="">Q: This is not a bad start to your coaching career. Has it been a surprise to you?</span>                  

A: I really believe that our players have played very efficiently in these first eight games. Our start gives us some confirmation that we are doing things the right way. I think our players deserve a lot of credit, because they have worked hard and understand our system and how we're going to do business. I think they've done a great job to this point.

Q: What do you think has enabled Matt Ryan to play the way he has in his first year so far?

A: I think that Matt is a very talented football player. He has the skill set to be an outstanding quarterback in this league. I think there are a number of intangible that Matt possesses that have sped up his maturation process through these first eight games. I want to caution that it's just eight games for the season. Matt is a guy that is a film rat. He spends a lot of time on his off day in the office watching tape. He understands the sequencing of the week in the National Football League that you have to move on after that game on Sunday. You put it to rest on Monday and move on to the next game. There's a lot of nuances and differences from week to week in what he's going to face and I think he's done a very nice job along with our coaching staff. I think they've put him in some situations he's been able to manage very efficiently.

Q: Has anything surprised you about your team so far?

A: We really have played efficiently and well. I don't know if there's anything that surprises me. I had a real good feeling after the Tampa game in the second game of the season. I think we kind of realized even if we played really poorly in the first half, I saw a team that fought back in the second half, made quite a few adjustments and got back in the game and I think that got our team some confidence and some confidence in our quarterback. He started very slowly in that game, 0-for-9 in the first half and had two interceptions and in the second half he came out and played very efficiently, throwing the ball at one point, going nine for 11. I don't know if there's been any big surprises, but I think that was a point early on that showed our mettle, so to speak.

Q: Is there a present player or a player in the past who Matt Ryan reminds you of?

A: No, not really. I know this, Matt has an outstanding work ethic, has all the attributes that you're looking for. He's a big, strong guy and he has a sense of getting the ball out of his hands, very similar to the quarterback that you have there in New Orleans. I think Drew (Brees) has a very good understanding of the scheme that Sean (Payton) runs, gets the ball out of his hand. I think he's only been sacked seven times this year, and I think the good quarterbacks that are playing well are the guys that have a good understanding of the game.

Q: A lot of the veterans on the team have gone through some tumultuous situations the past few years. Have they talked about how different things have been this year? Do you sense a change in atmosphere?

A: As a staff and as a team, we've never spoken, or I've never addressed the team about what happened in the past. What happened in '07 happened and we've started with a clean slate and I think that's kind of been the sense all around the building. We came in and we were going to be very systematic in how we approached the offseason in terms of making changes with the roster, going through free agency and the draft. I think Thomas Dimitroff and his staff did a great job of identifying players we were able to add a couple of free agents, big time free agents that were really able to help us and another group of free agents that are really contributing to our football team and then I think in the draft we did a great job. I'm a very communicative coach. Our coaching staff is that way. We want to have open communication because when I think you have open communication you can define everyone's role and everyone understands what their role is and there's no griping. It's black and white at that point.

Q: How important has the addition of Michael Turner been to your team?

A: Michael has been very, very integral in what we want to do. In fact, he was the first part in this changing process. We knew our philosophy was going to be that we were going to want to run the football and to be able to run the football in this league I know it's a cliché to say you have to be able to run the football and stop the run, but it really to me is at the core of what successful football teams are able to do and Michael has a lot of the traits that we were looking for. He was a guy that can run the ball between the tackles, but also has enough speed to take it the distance. Over the last three years, prior to this season, Michael was a guy who had three touchdown runs of over 75 yards, so with what we wanted to do with Mike Mularkey our offensive coordinator is very philosophically the same in terms of what I like to do, we needed to do that and get a running back. Michael is very young, five years in the league and had only 251 carries, not a whole lot of wear and tear on his body and as we did our due diligence, we felt he gave us our best opportunity to set a running game in place.

Q: What do you think of the NFC South so far in terms of the style of play, the division and how it compares to other divisions?

A: From top to bottom, it is a very, very competitive division. I think the records of the teams indicate that. I think week in and week out when our division goes out and plays against other teams in the NFL, it's going to be a battle. I think geographically the way the teams are located, makes for great rivalries. I've had an opportunity to go down and play Tampa and Carolina and you see the fans getting energized. Falcon fans make the trip to Carolina and Tampa and I'm sure there will be some Saints fans that make the trip up here to Atlanta this week. I think it's very competitive and I think it's a difficult division that plays very good offense and defense.

Q: Do you have any sense halfway through of how many wins it's going to take to get a playoff spot in this division and how many teams from this division could make the playoffs?

A: I can't even think about past this week. We try to break the season down into four quarters and that's the furthest time horizon that I look at. We're beginning to start the third quarter of our season, the Saints are up this week. We do know that of the next three games after this week, that two of the next three games will be at home and that's kind of how we break this down. I think it's really too early to talk about anything like that.

Q: It seems like teams have keyed on Will Smith this year. With Charles Grant being out, is he a guy that you will have to key on more?

A: Yes. I think Will is an outstanding defensive end and you have to know where he is on all snaps. I've been very impressed with the job coach (Gary) Gibbs and his staff has done with that defense, not only Will, but I think Jonathan Vilma has been a great addition to the defense. I think you've added Bobby McCray who I had in Jacksonville. Bobby had a ten sack year for us one season. We know he can rush the passer. I see where they're moving him around a little bit and getting him some rushes inside to create some mismatches. The linebacking crew with (Scott) Shanle and (Scott) Fujita I think are good, hard nosed football players. I think it's a good group from top to bottom.

Q: How has the addition of Michael Turner aided in Matt Ryan's development?

A: I think not just for Matt Ryan, but for any quarterback, when you're able to run the football and force teams to add a defender to the front, whether in playing an eight man front or adding a guy for depth to stop the run, it's going to open up opportunities for the passing game, where now there aren't going to be opportunities to roll to a certain receiver or play double coverage. I think when you're able to run the ball efficiently, now you're able to take the opportunities to take shots down the field, because you're going to get a lot of one on one opportunities.

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