With the injuries suffered by Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole against the Buccaneers on Sunday, it’s understandable that fans would wonder what the team may do to address the cornerback position, should either player miss any additional time. While C.J. Goodwin and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are both available and safeties like Ricardo Allen and Damontae Kazee played CB in college, there is a concern over the lack of depth and experience.
The name that has immediately come to mind for many fans has been recently released Jalen Collins. I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to happen. Here’s why:
One year suspension possibility and lost trust
The phrase “lost trust” isn’t coming from me - that’s what Dan Quinn said about Jalen when asked about why he decided to cut the former 2nd round draft pick. We heard that phrase in the preseason and we heard it again after the cut. For those who have watched Dan Quinn these past few years, he doesn’t use those words lightly.
This most recent suspension was the second for Jalen since being drafted, which means he is dangerously close to being kicked out of the league for a full year. That puts a team in a very bad position. Do you sacrifice reps for a kid who - with one slip-up - will disappear for the season? This is never an easy question to answer, and most of the time high draft picks will get the benefit of the doubt here.
However, Dan Quinn has not minced words where Jalen is concerned. Whether it’s his faith in guys like C.J. Goodwin and/or Blidi Wreh-Wilson or just a complete lack of faith in Jalen (or both), the head coach has made it clear where he stands on this.
When fans talk about Jalen, they often reference his strong play at the end of 2016 (and into the post-season). They’re right - he played well down the stretch and made some critical plays in those games. Obviously, he came in when Desmond Trufant went down with injury so it would stand to reason that he should be brought back again if Trufant is going to miss any games.
Yet, what’s often overlooked is the rest of the time Jalen spent in Atlanta. His first season was basically a red-shirt year for him, with his playing time being almost non-existent. Even in 2016, he played in a total of 8 games, despite being available for 12 of them.
As fans, we’ve only seen what he’s offered in those few games from 2016 and it was certainly promising. One has to wonder, though, what the coaches saw over the last few years. It’s impossible for us to know, but clearly the 2016 performance did not outweigh what we - as fans - are not privy to.
The other 31 teams
Perhaps the most telling thing about Collins is that no other team in the NFL picked him up on waivers. Make no mistake: corner is one of the premier positions in football and there are many teams that deal with awful play at the position on a weekly basis. Jalen’s 2nd round contract is not too expensive, either, so that shouldn’t be a reason to pass him up. If you’re questioning the wisdom of letting him go, or thinking he should be brought back, then this fact should give you pause. There’s still a chance Collins gets signed in the coming weeks, but the fact that all teams passed on him shows what the impression of this young player is league-wide.
All of that said, I still would not be opposed to the Falcons bringing him back on a minimal contract - assuming he’d even want to come back to Atlanta at this point. There’s little risk in bringing him back in on a limited deal, especially with the injuries the team has suffered recently. Based on the reasons above, though, I highly doubt we’ll see Jalen wear the red and black again.