Cox, Tice help Falcons get tough

The Falcons’ problems of protecting the quarterback and getting to the other team’s passer were well documented in 2013. So with this being the issue, the team decided to bring in new coaches for the offensive and defensive lines.

Out went offensive line coach Pat Hill and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton, in comes Mike Tice from the Chicago Bears to lead the offensive line and Bryan Cox to lead the defensive line.


Both coaches come in with impressive resumes as players in the NFL to go along with their experience teaching players the techniques of the game. Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith prefers to hire coaches who have played in the League.

“When you put a staff together you want former players on your staff,” Smith said. “I think it’s important. The whole time that we’ve been here, we’ve made sure that we’ve had a sprinkling of players that have been in the locker room.”

As far as it goes for both Cox and Tice, their combined playing experience in the NFL is 26 years. Plus, they have both been coaching in the League for a combined total of 27 years. Another quality they bring to the field is a fierce, in-your-face style of coaching. This is something that Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan notices about his Defensive Line Coach.

“There’s no beating around the bush with Bryan,” Nolan said. “Bryan says it just like he sees it and I think players appreciate that a lot.”

Fans who head out to training camp will see this with Cox when he puts the defensive linemen through drills. They’ll also notice a de- fensive line that is very aggressive with their hands when engaging blockers. This is some- thing that Nolan has really noticed.

“Coach (Mike) Tice and (Assistant Offen- sive Line) Coach (Wade) Harman have both complimented Bryan and the defensive line for their hand usage in the pass rush,” Nolan said. “So hopefully that helps us. It can’t hurt.”


As far as the offensive line goes, Atlanta used its first pick on offensive tackle Jake Matthews to help improve that position group. This line rarely had a consistent group of five guys starting from week to week in 2013. Either this was due to injury or just the lack of effective play on the field. So the Falcons brought in Tice to help this group improve and better protect quarterback Matt Ryan. Matthews is a huge fan of Tice’s enthusiastic coaching style.

“You love to see that in your offensive line coach,” Matthews said. “That’s someone you want to play for and he’s fired up every day. I love going out there working for him.”

Tice is trying to help an offensive line that gave up over 40 quarterback sacks on Matt Ryan last season. Also the Falcons were subpar running the football, averaging only 79 yards per game. These are two points of emphasis for Tice to improve upon in 2014 and beyond.

“First thing we wanted to do is protect the quarterback better and figure out why we didn’t do a good job of doing that last year,” Tice said. “We wanted run the ball better and run the ball with efficiency, be explosive when we can.”

Tice says he went through game film from last season to determine the issues the offensive line was causing that led to high sack totals and low returns running the football. He feels that increased communication within the group could help alleviate those troubles. He’s also been trying to figure out what his players strengths are as blockers.

In terms of trying to run the football with more effectiveness in 2014, left tackle Sam Baker is on board with Mike Tice’s wish.

“You want take pride in anything the offensive coordinator is calling,” Baker said. “If they’re having us drop back and pass block, we want to take pride in all of that, too.”

Getting back to Cox, the players are re- sponsive to his style of coaching and like the way he’s treated them so far on the practice fields. Veteran defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux is back for his 10th season with the Falcons and is one of those players receptive to Cox’s coaching style.

“He wants us to go out there and prepare every day,” Babineaux said. “We’re doing a (few) different drills this year and I think it’s going to help us maintain to continue to have a good rotation on the defensive line this year.”

Cox intends for this defensive line to be very active with their hands when they take on blockers this season. That is something that he readily admits we’ll see from this team.

“We want to be live hands and we want to be strong,” Cox said. “But I would say the big- gest characteristic is that we want to be versa- tile. We want to be able to do a lot of things up there in that front line.”

Cox has 10 returning veteran defensive linemen to work with in his first season as their position coach. Cox also gets an addition to this line in the form of second round pick and defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman out of Min- nesota. Cox had the chance to work with him at this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Cox makes no bones about what he expects out of his players and from his experience playing in the NFL, he knows what it takes to be successful at the position.

“I don’t get caught up in stats,” Cox said. “To me, successful is being able to do the job you’re asked to do. That’s success, period.”

Cox continued on with that thought about what a successful defensive lineman in the NFL does by saying that his players “have to be the toughest SOB out there.”

As the Falcons try to prepare for the 2014 regular season, they do so with Cox and Tice both trying to make their positions win the point of attack battles on Sundays. This is a wish that Head Coach Mike Smith has made known all offseason. His hope is that the At- lanta Falcons are a bigger and stronger football team going forward.

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