The Falcons have one of the best young cornerbacks in the game in Desmond Trufant, and they have two second-rounders on the roster, Robert Alford and rookie Jalen Collins. How the position will shake out this season as far as which players will start outside and who will take over in the nickel is certainly a question at this point.
Trufant, the Falcons' first round draft choice in the 2013 NFL Draft, has shown considerable promise early in his career. Trufant finished the 2014 season, a season in which the secondary was sometimes called upon to maintain coverage for periods of time that weren't even reasonable because of the lack of pass rush, with the highest Pro Football Focus grade on the entire defense, a +13.5, grading positively in coverage and against the run. He finished the season with three interceptions and 16 pass break ups. Trufant will be starting outside. Any other outcome would be a shock.
Alford struggled some last season prior to being placed on season-ending injured reserve with a wrist injury. Alford is back on the field and ready to compete for a starting role this season. Last season, Alford finished with three interceptions and 12 pass break ups. Alford plays really physical coverage, and his style of play is well-suited to this new defensive scheme. It's very possible that Alford will shift to the nickel role, a good fit for him given his speed, and that rookie Jalen Collins, if healthy, will take over outside.
Collins, the Falcons' second-round draft choice in the 2015 NFL Draft, has the length Dan Quinn covets in defensive players. We have not yet had the opportunity to see Collins in action in rookie minicamp or OTAs, as he's dealing with a foot injury, but the team has indicated that holding Collins out of practice is merely a precaution at this point and they do expect him to be ready to go soon.
Southward, who unexpectedly had knee surgery last week and is expected to be back on the field for training camp, was shifted from free safety to corner this offseason, and he's a bit of an unknown at the position. The team surely likes his speed in that role, and it will be interesting to see where they put him once he is able to get back on the field.
Allen will also get a shot at the safety position per Dan Quinn. Allen struggled to make the team last season and was placed on the practice squad following cuts. He was added to the active roster late in the season after Alford was placed on injured reserve. Allen's speed is an asset, but expect him to remain a reserve if he sticks.
The Falcons signed Phillip Adams as a free agent this offseason, a veteran who adds experience and depth to the roster at this position.
Lee, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Fort Valley State University who hails from McDonough, Georgia, is unlikely to be a real factor on game days. The team has quality starting-caliber corners and reasonable depth.
It's the same story for Kevin White, though White maybe has a better chance of locking up a practice squad role. White, a rookie undrafted free agent out of TCU, allowed a quarterback rating of just 66.3 on passes thrown in his direction last season. He had seven pass break ups and three interceptions last year.
Mincy, also an undrafted free agent, had eight pass breakups and one interception last seeason at Auburn.
Outlook for 2015
When you look at the changes the team is making to the scheme -- simplifying things, emphasizing speed and attacking the ball and creating turnovers -- as well as the talent the team has to work with, particularly in Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Jalen Collins, the outlook for this unit is pretty good heading into the season. Considering also the ways the Falcons have upgraded the pass rush, both in personnel with the addition of Vic Beasley and with scheme changes, that should also make life a little easier for the Falcons' corners. It will be exciting to see what this unit can do next season.
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