So now it’s confirmed: Desmond Trufant is out Sunday. That takes an abstract problem we had to consider all week and turns it into a concrete one, and the Falcons now have to contain a pair of dynamic receivers down their best corner.
Knowing that, how are the Falcons going to use their remaining cornerbacks on Sunday? It’s a big, essential question, and one that is impossible to answer with 100% accuracy without being in the room with Falcons coaches. They’ve closed off the ductwork, so I’m not going to be able to do that.
However, there are some basic assumptions we can make about usage. Here they are.
Alford won’t be used to shadow the Vikings’ top receiver, in part because both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are gifted options and either one can take over a game. But Alford will certainly be on one of those players all game long, as he’s the team’s top cornerback without Trufant, even if his results have been a bit inconsistent at times in 2017.
The Falcons are extremely fortunate that Poole is likely to return, because he continues to be a quality, underrated cornerback. He’s one of the few corners in the NFL not to allow a touchdown this season, he’s one of the team’s most physical players at the position, and he’ll be able to at least give Diggs and Thielen a game. The Falcons have indicated they’re willing to use him outside as needed, and frankly, they’ll probably need to. Look for Poole to split his time outside and inside against Minnesota.
Goodwin did not have the best game against the Bucs, but in his defense, he was tossed into 40-plus snaps against a very good passing attack. He’s big, rangy and plenty physical, and the Falcons will probably look to get him snaps both inside and outside. If they can help it, the Falcons would be wise to keep Goodwin away from Diggs (who chiefly plays outside) and Thielen (who is murder in the slot). That will involve some moving around, which Dan Quinn isn’t always fond of. Expect Alford, Poole, and Goodwin to dominate snaps Sunday.
Wreh-Wilson has gotten very little playing time this year, but he’s a veteran cornerback with legitimate starting experience, and the Falcons aren’t going to worry overmuch about trotting him out there as the fourth guy. The Vikings don’t have any particularly intimidating receiving options beyond Diggs and Thielen, and for the 10-20 snaps Wreh-Wilson ends up getting, he will hopefully not draw either of those guys.
If there’s a crisis or an injury, Allen could step in and play a small number of snaps at cornerback again. Frankly, I don’t trust him in that role any less than someone like Wreh-Wilson, and I trust Damontae Kazee to play well at free safety in a pinch if the need arises. Considering what this would mean, though, I hope Allen remains parked at safety.