Following a roller coaster first quarter, the Falcons took control and outplayed the Cardinals in an impressive 38-19 victory. It was a complete disciplined performance, which has to be refreshing for Dan Quinn. This occurred less than 24 hours after Desmond Trufant was reported to have suffered a torn pectoral. That meant more playing time for Jalen Collins.
I always rewatch the previous Falcons game and post GIFs on Twitter of the most standout plays or disappointing decisions. One particular player, positional group, or situation is excluded from the film review to be saved for this piece. Collins is the featured player this week. Since the spotlight is on a cornerback, there will be some plays with GIFs from multiple angles. The All-22 doesn’t always do a cornerback’s play justice. Using replays from the telecast proved to be helpful. Here is how the young cornerback fared last Sunday.
1st quarter: 1st and 10 at ARI 40
Collins is playing press coverage on John Brown. He commits an immediate mistake by not getting his hands on Brown. Allowing a speedy wide receiver to get a free release, while playing press will more than likely come back to haunt the cornerback. Collins is already trying to track back against a player, who has the speed advantage. As the embattled cornerback tries to chase Brown, he isn’t prepared to make any adjustment. Brown runs a comeback route and gets four yards of separation. This goes for a 19-yard completion. Collins is known for struggling against fleet footed wide receivers. Between all of Arizona’s wide receivers, Brown is arguably the worst matchup for him. Collins was fortunate that Brown reinjured his hamstring and left the game in the second quarter.
3rd quarter: 3rd and 6 at ARI 45
Unfortunately, there is only one angle for this play. Collins was matched up with Michael Floyd for the majority of the second half. It was a highly contested battle, as Carson Palmer targeted him eleven times. Collins looked unbalanced from the beginning. Floyd doesn’t even sell the out route to create separation, as he just bends to the outside. There is no disguise or stutter step to force Collins out of position. This is an easy 12-yard completion, where Collins’ lack of balance prevented him from potentially breaking up the pass. Plays can be won on the first step. That was apparent on this particular play.
4th quarter: 2nd and 10 at ATL 49
This is good coverage, despite Collins giving Floyd inside leverage. What the young cornerback will start understanding is that bigger wide receivers will look to gain an advantage with a subtle push off or jersey pull. Look no further than Mike Evans’ touchdown over Richard Sherman. Floyd could have easily been penalized. Due to inconsistent officiating, offensive pass interference is usually only called for a blatant push off or excessive contact. Collins is big enough to hold his own against any wide receiver, who is using his size to create enough separation. This pass goes for 19 yards and puts the Cardinals in striking distance.
4th quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 30
Palmer targets Collins on the very next play. Arizona has been trying to reignite their magic from last season. Floyd was one of the more efficient downfield threats last season. It simply hasn’t worked this season, as Floyd can’t make catches in traffic and Palmer’s arm strength has declined. This isn’t a very good throw by Palmer, which results in a wasted opportunity. Face guarding usually ends with a penalty or big play for the wide receiver. This will count as a pass breakup for Collins, who manages to run step for step with Floyd. If Collins turns around, this should have been an interception.
4th quarter: 2nd and 10 at ATL 30
For the third consecutive play, Collins is covering Floyd and Palmer doesn’t hesitate to throw in his direction. Once again, he allows Floyd to get a free release, despite playing press coverage. Collins needs to disrupt the route, when lining up near the line of scrimmage. What is the point of playing press coverage, if you can’t affect the route? Collins is slow to react at first, but maintains good positioning and forces Palmer into having to make a perfect throw. That doesn’t occur, which forces an incomplete pass. The referee does penalize Collins for holding Floyd. There isn’t much contact, as both players’ arms barley graze each other. Bizarre decision.
4th quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 25
It’s rare to see a cornerback get targeted on four consecutive plays. Palmer was relentless against Collins. They finally switched it up and moved Floyd into a trips package on the left side. That puts Collins against Jermaine Gresham. There are only three likely scenarios here. Gresham is either going to run a seam, hitch, or in route. He opts for the latter and Collins is well prepared to cover it. Palmer makes a rare perfect throw to complete the pass. Collins shows much better anticipation here. There is nothing a defender can do on this play. A precise throw can be insurmountable to overcome on some occasions.
4th quarter: Two point conversion
When Collins was drafted, everyone talked about Quinn’s preference for bigger cornerbacks. They wanted a player with great length and size. That was on display here. Collins doesn’t bite on Floyd’s initial fake and tracks him on the fade. It wasn’t a great throw by Palmer, but Collins deserves credit for playing this brilliantly. His positioning is excellent. Notice his left arm knocks Floyd off balance, which significantly decreases Floyd’s chances of making a play on the ball. That allows him to swat the pass away and lets Floyd hear about it.