Many of you liked Brian Poole coming out of Florida. Several of you even stumped for him to make the final 53 man roster. None of you, I’d wager, foresaw the 2016 season that Poole ultimately put together.
The undrafted free agent cornerback wound up being the team’s nickel cornerback for most of the year, and aside from a few hiccups here and there, proved to be a reliable, physical option for Dan Quinn’s defense. There’s absolutely no question he’ll reprise that role in 2017, and he may be even better with a year under his belt.
To get a better sense of what Poole brought to the table last year—and may bring to the table this year—Allen Strk broke down some film. You can see his breakdown below, with some notes from me (Dave) in the margins.
The MNF game vs. New Orleans was the first time Poole flashed. Reads the rub route design and doesn't give Michael Thomas any space. pic.twitter.com/gByLO8tUKo— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
Michael Thomas is not an easy man to contain. The play you see above illustrates how effective Poole is at tracking his man, even though he’s not necessarily the fastest or most agile cornerback on the field for Atlanta.
One of Poole's finest plays of the year. Instantly recognizes the route, which allows him to track down the deep ball & prevent a big play. pic.twitter.com/oS8H06Ydae— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
Here it is again. You simply do not see many first year cornerbacks who can diagnose a play this effectively, much less stop it. To see a UDFA rookie do it? Crazy.
Poole has a very high football IQ. He knows how to anticipate quick pass designs. Showed this on several occasions. pic.twitter.com/tH5s3bUGwR— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
Pfft. Look at him close on the ball. That’s magic.
Making open field tackles is one of Poole's strengths. Can't remember the last time Falcons had so many reliable tacklers in the secondary. pic.twitter.com/Z0ZSPkYN6H— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
This is one of Poole’s true strengths, and it’s one that Quinn and company insist upon after presumably watching Falcons cornerbacks miss easy tackles for years. Poole is physical enough and willing enough to make tackles like these with no help.
Poole can rely on his instincts too often. Due to his lack of speed, he can get beaten badly. Jordan Matthews leaves him trailing. pic.twitter.com/ubmcGdx03P— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
As good as Poole is, of course, he does make mistakes. Corners who aren’t elite athletes have to rely on their instincts, as Allen notes, and here we see an example of Poole’s instincts leading him a bit astray.
Similar to Keanu Neal, Poole plays violently. Jams (and takes out) Larry Fitzgerald before wrecking Palmer. Florida boys don't play games. pic.twitter.com/vx1V46vOCq— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
First interception of Poole's career. Shocking decision by Newton. If Poole didn't pick this off, Ricardo Allen was right there to jump in. pic.twitter.com/Bkn87HP5pz— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
What a beautiful tackle. Can't ignore Mark Ingram's poor decision. Still love how Poole stays disciplined & goes low. Huge 3rd down stop. pic.twitter.com/rhnZyce096— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
Even though Poole is a physical player, he does need to work on jamming at LOS. Looks extremely stiff covering Willie Snead here. pic.twitter.com/0zEwwOy19D— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
To be fair to Poole, Snead is good at disentangling himself from garbage near the line of scrimmage. He’s also good at getting murdered by Keanu Neal, but that’s neither here nor there.
What a glorious hit. Smart move by Poole to use his shoulder to avoid committing a ridiculous quarterback related personal foul penalty. pic.twitter.com/6ZOzKITrZq— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
Reasonably fast, very physical.
I love how Wilson tries to fake a pass ten yards downfield. Poole was having none of that. pic.twitter.com/sYRg4DGjWr— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
That hit is a lot of fun. You have to admire Wilson on this play.
Here is the other corner blitz with Poole. Rodgers ends up completing the pass, despite taking a vicious hit. pic.twitter.com/LWMd3uLUOH— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
Poole was quietly one of the best blitzing corners in the entire NFL last year, and the Falcons will probably utilize him in that fashion more often in 2017. Here he is flashing that ability.
Brian Poole is a violent individual. pic.twitter.com/PMwzMVX0pw— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) August 28, 2017
I’m really looking forward to seeing Poole build on his 2016 season. We’ve barely talked about him this offseason because we know he’s assured of a role and there are bigger names to discuss, but he’ll once again be a pivotal, physical presence for Atlanta.