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Arthur Smith: Ryan Nielsen was a right fit for us at defensive coordinator

Mike Florio and Chris Simms question whether Tom Brady, Brock Purdy, Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo will start at QB in San Francisco come Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.

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.