Charlie Bernstein: What has been the biggest difference from the team's 5-0 start to now? Has it been injuries, or maybe more film on Dan Quinn's schemes?
Bill Shanks: It's simply been the offensive struggles under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The Falcons have averaged just over 14 points per game in the last eight games (1-7). They have Matt Ryan. They have Julio Jones. But something is seriously wrong. It's Shanahan. His changes have just not worked. The offensive line has struggled, after doing so well in the first five games. It's just been a dumpster fire on offense.
CB: Matt Ryan is on pace to have his worst season since his rookie year. What is the major cause for his struggles?
BS: Ryan has just not meshed with Shanahan, who has tried to get Ryan to roll out more and has abandoned the no-huddle offense that Ryan has used so effectively before this year. There's just no chemistry. Instead of adjusting to what Ryan does best, Shanahan has forced Ryan to adjust to what he wants to do on offense. It just hasn't worked. Ryan has not been sharp, and for the first time in his career fans wonder if he's the man to get the Falcons to where they want to go.
CB: How has first-round pick Vic Beasley looked? A lot of people in Jacksonville wanted him to be selected third-overall.
BS: He's been okay. Beasley is learning, and we have to be patient with him as a pass-rusher. Has Beasley stood out? Absolutely not. He needs to take a big step in season two or there will be questions. He has only a handful of sacks, and the Falcons need him to be a premier pass rusher. But I believe fans did expect more than what they have seen thus far from the rookie.
CB: The Jaguars have a prolific passing attack. We know Desmond Trufant is very good, but how is the rest of the secondary playing?
BS: This is why the Jaguars will win the game. Trufant is great, but with safety William Moore out, the Falcons have no chance of slowing down the Jaguars' passing attack. The Falcons have simply not played well with Moore out the last few seasons. They will struggle, which will put even more pressure on Atlanta's offense to score more than the 14 points they've been averaging the last two months.
CB: We've noticed here in Jacksonville that Gus Bradley (former Seahawks DC) is hellbent on shoeharning his pieces into the Seattle scheme, even though there's nothing close to a Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner or Earl Thomas. Therefore, the team fails to get much pressure and certain teams overwhelm the defense. Have you seen the same thing out of Dan Quinn or is there more of an ability to adjust?
BS: Oh, yes. No doubt. There has been some improvement on defense, but it's not substantial. The rush defense has improved under Quinn, but there's still no pass rush. The personnel is just not there. They need more talent on defense. Ra'Shede Hageman has been a disappointment, and we just rarely see anyone stand out on defense. They've been okay, solid enough to keep Atlanta close in some games, but it's still not good enough. With rumors floating that the Falcons will bring in a Seattle personnel executive as the next general manager, we're likely to get even more of a Seattle flavor in the next few years if Quinn survives.