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Jalen Collins is holding his own, and not a moment too soon

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He’s not a great player yet—and he may never be—but Collins is not the liability many feared he would become.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Think about the worst moment of your career. Think about a time when people legitimately doubted your ability to do your job. Think about how terrible it makes you feel to have your work, and in some cases your life’s work, torched. Then think a little bit about how Jalen Collins has felt over the last couple of seasons.

It’s a cliche, but Collins has been living the worst moments of his career more or less since he was drafted. He came into his rookie season injured and behind and proceeded to play mediocre football, earning him the swift condemnation of Falcons fans, and then got popped with a four game suspension to start the 2016 season. If you’re familiar with the history of the team’s second round picks of late, and how quickly football fans (and pundits) make up their mind about a player, you know that Collins got tagged with that bust label quickly. He had no chance to shed it for the first four weeks of the season, he came back to an uncertain role, and there was at least one report that someone on the team didn’t want to draft him, as we passed along in October.

That’s what makes the moment we’re existing in so interesting. Desmond Trufant is likely gone for the year, which is a tremendous blow to a team with playoff aspirations. Trufant is not merely the team’s best cornerback; he’s one of the best corners in the entire NFL, and demonstrably one of the 3-5 best players on this roster. Losing him should take an already lousy defense and make it even worse, and yet the Falcons have now done a solid job holding opposing passing attacks in check for the last couple of weeks. The Eagles and Cardinals are nobody’s idea of elite offenses through the air, but it’s still an accomplishment, and Jalen Collins has played an integral role.

To say that Collins is great or even good might be a stretch, both because we haven’t seen enough of him and what we have seen has been a mixed bag. Against Arizona, though, Collins settled in after a rough start and wound up making an impact on the game, breaking up a two point conversion attempt and displaying some solid awareness along the way. With Robert Alford taking on an even larger and more demanding role, Collins achieving competence is a victory for the entire defense, which is now also without one of its best pass rusher in Adrian Clayborn until at least the Panthers game.

If the Falcons are going to take this season and turn it into a playoff berth and perhaps a deep playoff run, the defense is at least going to need to limit the damage against quality offenses like New Orleans, Dallas, and really the entire NFC East. Collins can be a big part of the solution if he can continue to turn in solid efforts, and after so many of us doubted him so ferociously, it would be nice to see him prove everyone wrong. As the likely #2 cornerback on this team coming opening day in 2017, anything less is going to lead to a long offseason for Collins and the fans.