The Atlanta Falcons have promoted secondary coach/senior defensive defensive assistant Marquand Manuel to the defensive coordinator role, ESPN reported early Friday.

Falcons Assistant Marquand Manuel Promoted To Defensive Coordinator

Manuel, 37, was the front-runner for the job. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn took over defensive play-calling last season, and decided following his team’s Super Bowl loss not to retain Richard Smith as defensive coordinator.

Smith could remain on staff in an advisory position, although he is exploring other options.

Manuel has worked alongside Quinn with other NFL teams, and therefore knows his scheme well. He was the assistant secondary coach for the Seattle Seahawks when Quinn was the defensive coordinator there. Manuel then followed Quinn to Atlanta in 2015.


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The Falcons have had more coaching staff turnover than Super Bowl teams usually do, with Manuel replacing Smith, and Steve Sarkisian replacing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has now become the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach. Bryant Young replacing defensive line coach Bryan Cox and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, offensive assistant Mike LaFleur and running backs coach Bobby Turner all leaving as well.

Manuel played eight NFL seasons at strong safety from 2002 to 2009 after entering the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. He also played for the Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions.

Manuel did several things to help strengthen Atlanta’s defense toward the end of the 2016 season and leading into Super Bowl LI.

He helped put Jalen Collins in position to fill the spot vacated by Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant, who required surgery for a season-ending pectoral injury. Manuel also helped develop free safety Ricardo Allen, rookie strong safety Keanu Neal, rookie defensive back Brian Poole and cornerback Robert Alford, who recorded an 82-yard interception return for a touchdown off a pass from Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI.

During the regular season, the Falcons ranked 27th in scoring defense in allowing 25.4 points per game and ranked 25th in total defense in giving up 371.2 yards per contest.

The Falcons primarily started four rookies and three second-year players, and the unit’s improvement was remarkable at the end of the season.

SAN FRANCISCO – NOVEMBER 20: Marquand Manuel #33 of the Seattle Seahawks tackles Billy Bajema #47 of the San Francisco 49ers at Monster Park on November 20th, 2005 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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