In Seattle, Dan Quinn helped develop on of the NFL’s best secondaries. Upon his arrival in Atlanta, many Falcons fans hoped that he would get the most out of players like Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford while also adding key depth.
Two years into his tenure, it’s safe to say that Quinn is well on his way to achieving just that.
2016 Atlanta Falcons cornerback stats
Widely considered the Falcons’ best cornerback, Trufant was missed during Atlanta’s Super Bowl run. It’s no secret that Atlanta has made extending Trufant a priority this offseason, despite his season-ending pectoral injury, and that deal is reportedly close to being done. While some have questioned whether Trufant is actually a No. 1 corner, that might be the wrong way of approaching the situation. He’s an extremely versatile player who is fluid in zone coverage and a reliable tackler, something that is important in Quinn’s scheme. Trufant might not be a shutdown corner, but he is an important part of Atlanta’s defense.
Prior to the 2016 season, many believed Alford’s free-agent price tag would outweigh his worth and that he and Atlanta would part ways in the offseason. In a surprise move, the Falcons opted to sign the cornerback to a four-year contract extension worth $38 million in December. Alford’s reputation in Atlanta isn’t as solid as Trufant’s but the fourth-year corner handled himself fairly well after assuming the No. 1 role. He gets called for penalties far too often, but Alford has a penchant for making big plays as well, like securing an 82-yard pick-six in the Super Bowl.
The undrafted free agent was one of the many gems in Atlanta’s 2016 draft class. Poole assumed the nickel cornerback role early in the season and played much better than anyone could have anticipated. His five tackles for a loss were tied for the most on the team with Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, and he was an asset in coverage more often than not. Poole’s emergence gives Atlanta a lot of flexibility moving forward, and Quinn has talked about possibly using the former Florida Gator for depth at free safety.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the season, Collins still wasn’t part of the Falcons’ rotation in the secondary. Many wondered whether the former second-round pick would end up being a bust in Atlanta, but Trufant’s injury gave Collins the opening he needed. Since the Falcons’ bye week, Collins proved that he could become a valuable piece on this team. His 10 passes defended were second among cornerbacks, which is truly impressive given his limited playing time, and he has the size the Quinn covets. Collins could become the team’s other outside corner opposite Trufant, giving Atlanta the flexibility to move Alford inside.
The wide-receiver-turned-cornerback was a project for much of the season, but Goodwin is an interesting player for the Falcons moving forward. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Goodwin offers rare size at the position, and the coaching staff trusted him enough to use him a decent amount against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. His instincts are still a little raw at this point, but Goodwin is one to keep an eye on.
As injuries took their toll on the Falcons’ secondary, Olatoye was brought in to provide some depth. Olatoye is still a young corner who showed some dependability and could stick around with the Falcons.
It’s not hard to envision a reality where one of Atlanta’s pressing needs this offseason would have been at cornerback. Fortunately, the Falcons have a level of depth that they haven’t had for quite some time thanks to the emergence of players like Brian Poole and Jalen Collins. The unit performed well overall last season against a very tough slate of quarterbacks, and that should continue in Year 3 under Quinn.