It’s not often that you’re talking about potentially cutting a recent second round draft pick, but Jalen Collins has unfortunately put the Falcons in that predicament. The third year player figured to have a more prominent role this year after finally living up to some of his draft status at the end of 2016. The news of a demoted role in training camp lead to rampant speculation that was eventually put to rest when his 10 game suspension was announced.
This week, Dan Quinn made it clear that Collins would get playing time this preseason, which led to many fans asking why?
To me, the answer is clear: Jalen will be playing for his Falcons career this preseason.
While that may seem a bit extreme, let’s consider the reasons why this may be the case.
First, this is the second suspension for Collins. If he’s suspended again, it will be at least a full season if not longer. Going back to his issues in college, it’s clear that this is a player who has not conquered those particular demons. It’s completely reasonable for Dan Quinn and the rest of the staff to wonder if he can keep his head on straight. With this suspension, Collins will have been suspended for 14 games in the first three years of his career.
Second, the Falcons have a surprising amount of depth in the secondary now. Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant are quality starters on the outside, while Brian Poole showed himself to be a great nickel corner in his rookie year. Dan Quinn has already remarked on how well C.J. Goodwin has looked this year while Deji Olatoye has made some strides as well. It’s entirely possible that Collins was playing with the third string simply because Goodwin and Olatoye had been outplaying him. With quality depth in the secondary, the Falcons have options where Collins is concerned.
Third, who would the Falcons cut in order to bring Collins back when his suspension ends? After 10 games, there’s always the chance that someone will have suffered an injury or that someone will have performed poorly. However, if that’s not the case - who do you cut? Presumably, bringing back Collins means getting rid of another CB on the roster. As mentioned above, if guys like Goodwin and Olatoye continue to develop, are you really going to cut one of them to bring back a player who can barely get on the field?
The fact that Collins is a second round pick may make you believe he’s a lock to be on the roster, but this isn’t the Mike Smith led Falcons anymore. Dan Quinn has shown he’s more than willing to give late round and un-drafted players a chance to start. While it’s never fun to watch an early round pick flame out, this is not a staff that’s intent on keeping these guys around based solely on their draft status. Dan Quinn wants the best roster he can get, whether or not that includes a former second round pick.
The preseason can often be boring, especially in the lead up to the regular season. However, the next four games for Jalen Collins could be his most important yet. If he can’t demonstrate he’s a guy worth waiting on, they could be the last time we’ll see him in a Falcons uniform.