Report: Spagnuolo, Nolan lead list of Falcons DC choices

The Falcons are in the market for a new defensive coordinator, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday two coaches have emerged as the leading candidates: former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

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The Falcons have ranked no better than 20th in the NFL in pass defense since 2008 -- a deficiency that's been highlighted in their past two playoff defeats -- and the unit gave up 236.6 passing yards per game this year.

"Moving forward, this defense needs to continue its growth and evolution as a passionate and fiery defense, one that is going to fly to the football, disrupt, be opportunistic and capitalize on opportunities to turn the game around; flip the game in critical situations," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the Journal-Constitution.

Dimitroff also said that whomever they hire does not necessarily have to have ties to head coach Mike Smith. Ex-Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has worked with Smith in the past, but the Journal-Constitution reported Del Rio is not a likely hire.

As far as Falcons owner Arthur Blank is concerned, someone with a different perspective would be a good addition to his team.

"Their ability . . . to be totally objective, cold-hearted and unemotional about the young men that we have on the roster [should be an asset]," Blank said. "[We'll] bring in some folks that will be able to give us maybe some new perspective, maybe some different perspective not only on team questions, but on player issues that we may have as well."

Earlier this week, Brian VanGorder left the Falcons for a job as Auburn's defensive coordinator after serving in that position in Atlanta for four seasons.

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