Parsing Out The Atlanta Falcons Cornerback Situation

After one week, the cornerback depth chart for the Falcons may already be unsettled.

No, Dunta Robinson isn't going to lose his job. He's getting paid a lot of money to be the team's top corner, and one middling game isn't going to cause Mike Smith and the coaching staff to pull the plug on the experiment. Do they have the same kind of qualms about Brent Grimes, though?

Note that I'm about to get into some serious conjecture here, starting with an observation from the AJC's own D. Orlando Ledbetter. Some of you will want to call me an idiot for even raising this, and I get that. It's kind of a crazy post. But I do think it's worth bringing up.

I'm really looking to generate a discussion about the future of this cornerbacking corps, especially because the Falcons are going to be facing a very tough set of wide receivers this week. The performance of guys like Grimes, Chris Owens and possibly even Brian Williams in the Cardinals game could go a long way toward shaking this depth chart out.

Here's what DOL had to say. Follow after the jump for my thoughts:

His buzz word for the Grimes’ play is "consistent." Every time you read him talking about the defense playing "consistently" he’s really talking about Grimes not having any lapses. (That’s just my media interpretation. He has not said that to anybody that I know of. But as soon as Brian Williams gets fully healthy, look for him in the lineup. Again, just another media interpretation.)

You first inclination, after reading that, is probably to totally disregard it. We're talking about, at best, an educated guess. But history and the pressure of winning create the possibility that Grimes will be knocked down the depth chart.

We all know Grimey isn't perfect. In the press conference DOL transcribed, Smith carefully avoids naming names but still manages to take Grimes to task for being out of position. That matches one of the major knocks against him as a cover corner, though it conveniently ignores the fact that Grimes was doing a better job in coverage than Dunta for much of the day Sunday.

That's one piece of history. The other, of course, involves Brian Williams. He has a substantial history with Mike Smith, started last year until he got hurt and has more of that veteran stank on him than Grimes or Owens. One of Smith's few weaknesses is that he loves himself some veteran former Jaguars. Mike Peterson held on to his job thanks to that—though, to be fair, he may very well play well enough to keep it all season long—and Williams may come roaring back despite the fact that he's basically a shell of the corner he once was. There's a tendency to think that the older guys offer more consistent play, though comparing the talent of Grimes and Williams in 2010 yields a pretty clear winner.

Owens, meanwhile, is playing with the kind of physicality that the Falcons value out of a nickel corner. He may be playing himself into that role for the rest of the season, whether or not Grimes keeps his job.

I raise this now, again, because the Cardinals offer up a quality passing attack even with the woefully subpar Derek Anderson at quarterback. Grimes and Owens will be challenged by a very sure-handed Steve Breaston and the colossal Stephen Williams, who will be manning the slot against the Falcons. A bad game here could have Smith re-evaluating his depth chart only two games in.

And then there's the pressure to win. Mike Smith is disappointed in the team's performance, but in years past he could afford to nod gravely and move on because the team was billing itself as being in a re-building cycle. This season, with the national spotlight on the team, the Falcons are in more of a win-now mode, whether they'd like to admit it or not. Sam Baker has survived train wreck games in the past, but he may not have the same leash as in years' past. The same goes for the cornerbacks, with Grimes and Owens especially vulnerable because they're younger. I don't think any of us like that, but it's got at least a grain of truth to it.

Is this as crazy as it looks now that I've typed it out, or do you think Grimes is on shaky ground?

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