Falcons Interview Saints Coach; 'Home Stretch' of Defensive Coordinator Search

The Atlanta Falcons are nearing the end of their defensive coordinator search following an interview with New Orleans Saints defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.

The Atlanta Falcons are one step closer to filling their vacancy at defensive coordinator following the retirement of Dean Pees.

According to NFL Network, Atlanta interviewed New Orleans Saints defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen on Tuesday and is "coming down the home stretch" of its search to replace Pees as the defensive coordinator.

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Nielsen, 43, worked alongside Kris Richard to call plays for New Orleans' defense, with the duo guiding the Saints to fifth league-wide in total defense.

A well-regarded talent developer up front, Nielsen has spearheaded the progress made from a variety of current or former Saints players, be it first-round pick Marcus Davenport, third-round pick Trey Hendrickson or undrafted free agent Carl Granderson.

In addition to Nielsen, the Falcons have interviewed Green Bay Packers secondary coach Jerry Gray, former Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio, Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Al Holcomb and requested but were later denied access to meet with Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.

Nielsen, who joined the Saints in 2017, has also interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings for their vacant defensive coordinator role. It was previously unclear whether New Orleans would grant access for Nielsen to interview with Atlanta, as permission was required and the division rivalry added another element to the equation.

But ultimately, the Falcons met with their fifth outside candidate to call plays for the defense next season - and don't appear to have too much more to do before officially reaching their decision.


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