I was hoping I would be able to draw cornerback in our midseason review series because frankly, sometimes I just want to write something really positive and upbeat about the Falcons, and there have not been a lot of opportunities for that of late. This Falcons cornerback group, though? Easy.
Let’s dive in to what this quietly great group has been up to in 2017 thus far, and what we should expect from them going forward.
CB Desmond Trufant - 17 tackles, 1 interception, 6 pass deflections, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 defensive touchdown
CB Robert Alford - 27 tackles, 10 pass deflections
CB Brian Poole - 29 tackles, 4 pass deflections, 1 sack
A year ago, the Falcons got everyone from Jalen Collins to Deji Olatoye more involved on defense with Desmond Trufant out. This year, with Trufant fully healthy and Collins suspended, the team has really only used their top three cornerbacks.
The results, despite what people may argue, have been excellent. Sure, Robert Alford has gotten popped with some bad penalties, Desmond Trufant has been burnt a small handful of times, and Brian Poole’s struggles with quick receivers have reared their ugly heads from time to time. This team is still on pace to allow far fewer passing yards and passing touchdowns than it did a year ago, and a lot of that is due to the stellar play of its cornerbacks, who remain some of the best in the NFL.
Getting Collins back may be a bit of a boon at this point because it’ll enable the Falcons to give these guys a little rest, because they’re playing nearly every snap in the average week. Alford is playing every snap and playing a good number of special teams snaps, for god’s sake, and is still out there swatting down passes. Marquand Manuel clearly does not trust C.J. Goodwin and Blidi Wreh-Wilson to do much out there at this point, despite Goodwin’s solid play a year ago.
Basically, this is one of the team’s great strengths, and you should try to remember that next time a Robby Anderson sneaks by them once or twice in a game.
Baring injury, there’s no reason to assume this group of cornerbacks will suddenly regress. In fact, they may get better as Trufant gets deeper into the season and further away from his injury, and Collins returns (assuming the team doesn’t cut him out of spite) to help with the load.
The major concerns are that Trufant has had a couple of weird, uncharacteristic penalties and turnabouts in coverage, neither of which would seem to be a major future concern given his track record. You can add Alford’s penalty issues here, but we’ve been complaining about that for years and it’s not like he’s on track to break any personal records. The biggest legitimate questions here are whether Poole can handle some of the shiftiest receivers left on the schedule and whether Collins will be any good when he comes back, and what it might mean for this team’s depth if he is not.
Still, these are minor questions compared to things like “will the offense start to function again?” and “are the Falcons going to have to give Sean Weatherspoon significant snaps at some point?” We’re lucky to have this group of cornerbacks, and we should hope they’re still all here five years from now.