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The Falcoholic’s 2018 Falcons Positional Review: Cornerbacks

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Fact: Desmond Trufant invented fruit snacks

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons cornerbacks corps wasn’t a strength in 2018. In fact, they were downright embarassing at times. It’s a unit that must improve this off-season, one way or another. Don’t be surprised if the cornerback depth chart has a different look next season. But you should also be prepared for the possibility that the front office doubles down keeps the current cornerback corps more or less intact. Let’s break ‘em down.

Desmond Trufant

Trufant played 97.1 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps and earned an overall grade of 71.4 from PFF this season (36th in the NFL). That makes him “above average” according to their metrics. He did earn a grade of 75.1 in 2017, so he arguably regressed a bit this season. He defended 12 passes and sack. Trufant has four years remaining on his contract and is still the Falcons’ CB1.

Robert Alford

Alford infamously had a down year in 2018, as opposing quarterbacks averaged a passer rating of 138.9 when targeting him. He played 87.7 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps and earned a PFF grade of 56.6 (105th among cornerbacks and “average” according to their metrics). His grade in coverage was 53.1 (103rd among cornerbacks and “below average” according to their metrics.) He did defend 11 passes (down from 17 in 2017), for what that’s worth, but he also drew 12 penalties. (5 DPI, 5 defensive holding, and two illegal contact. Four were declined.) Only Ryan Schraeder drew more Falcons penalties in 2018.

Our own Allen Strk wrote a fantastic piece breaking down Alford’s downfall. Go give it a read now, if you haven’t already. The Falcons can save $17 million in cap space (with only $1.2 million in dead money) over the next two years if they designate Alford a post-June 1 cut, and going that route would be entirely rational at this point. But one wonders whether 2018 is an anomaly. (And more to the point, whether the Falcons are ready to move on from Alford.)

Brian Poole

Poole played 76.2 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2018, defending 6 passes and racking up 3 sacks. He earned a PFF grade of 61.7. (80th among quarterbacks and “average” according to their metrics.) It’s worth noting that Poole earned higher grades in 2017 (66.3) and 2016 (69.1). He was also penalized 8 times (3 were declined) this season. He’s a restricted free agent but I won’t be surprised if the Falcons prioritize bringing him back in 2019.

Isaiah Oliver

Oliver only played 22 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2018, earning a PFF grade of 70. (He didn’t play enough snaps to earn a ranking but his grade is “above average” according to their metrics.) Oliver did defend 7 passes, notwithstanding him limited opportunities. He was only penalized once. Overall Oliver is still an exciting prospect and there’s plenty to be excited about going forward.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson

Wreh-Wilson only played 30 defensive snaps in 2018 (2.7 percent), earning a PFF grade of 90.1. He defended two passes and wasn’t penalized. Wreh-Wilson is 29 years old and an unrestricted free agent, but I won’t be shocked if he too winds up back with the Falcons in 2019, at least for the off-season and training camp. In short, as fifth cornerbacks go, we could do worse.

Your thoughts, Falcoholics?