The Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen to be their next defensive coordinator late last week, replacing the now-retired Dean Pees.
Nielsen had been with the Saints since 2017, first as the team’s defensive line coach, then as assistant head coach/defensive line coach, and finally as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in 2022.
At practice for the Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas on Monday, Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith described Nielsen as “a big-picture guy,” adding that he likes the plan for Nielsen to build the system and the staff.
“Ryan is a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” Smith said, via Ashton Edmunds of the team’s website. “I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple of years, [and] we have a lot of familiarity.
“I’ve got a lot of respect and I love the plan he has and the way we want to implement things, continue to develop our own guys and what we’re going to do this offseason, so it was a really right fit for us and he’s a heck of a coach.”
In two seasons under Smith, the Falcons have finished No. 26 and No. 27 in yards allowed and No. 29 and No. 23 in points allowed.