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Re-visiting Falcons 2020 training camp battles: Cornerback

Taking a look at one of the youngest groups on the roster.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The time for training camp has begun! We can finally get excited about the beginning of positional battles and how the roster will shape out for the 2020 season. For the cornerback position, it’s going to be one to watch for a few reasons.

There’s quite a bit of youth and inexperience in this group after Desmond Trufant was cut and ultimately went to the Lions in free agency. A.J. Terrell was drafted to fill the void Trufant left at one of the outside CB positions, so now Coach Quinn has replaced all starting corners that were on the roster when he started his tenure at head coach back in 2015.

Because there will be a great deal of competition for CB on this roster, I’ll only focus on how the starting group will materialize. Here is how I think the competition will shake out as far as your starters at CB with only a few days left before camp starts.

A.J. Terrell

NFL Stats: N/A

Let’s just be clear: Terrell was drafted to start on this defense. The Falcons drafted him at 16th overall due to his length, speed and versatility in playing press man and zone coverage.

He’s pretty much a lock to start outside corner in base and nickel defense, even if he’s a rookie in a shorter offseason, because of that talent. However, he could use more weight to his frame, and he needs to be a more willing and physical tackler.

Kendall Sheffield

NFL Stats: 16 games played (11 starts), 43(30 solo)tackles, 3 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble

To me, here is where it gets interesting.

Kendall Sheffield has been one of the more pleasant surprises on the defense. Drafted in the 4th round in 2019, Sheffield has shown the speed, quickness and physicality Coach Quinn loves in his players. He’s a comer that will rarely get beat deep due to his blazing speed. One of his biggest weaknesses coming out of Ohio State was his footwork, and he’s worked tirelessly at correcting that.

Sheffield certainly could end up the other starting outside CB in base and move to Slot corner in Nickel formations. Sheffield will certainly be a player to watch because with his tools, he could be a very productive player in the league, and the coaching staff clearly likes him.

Isaiah Oliver

NFL stats: 30 games played(18 starts), 80 (65 solo)tackles, 18 passes defensed 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 QB hit

Isaiah Oliver has been a bit of an enigma so far in his NFL career. There have been many Falcons fans that are pretty down on him, but, to be fair, CB is one the positions with the steepest learning curve in the NFL, not to mention he had to learn different techniques when it comes to press coverage at the pro level. Needless to say, Oliver has been pretty inconsistent at CB so far in his career.

What’s promising is that in the 2nd half of the 2019 season, he seemed to have settled in at position and was more often than not in the position to make a play on the ball due to his improved footwork and technique. He will certainly see plenty of time on the field, especially in Nickel at outside corner. However, based on his progression, Sheffield could end up taking more snaps in base when called upon.

This is going to be a young unit that will see some bumps and bruises throughout the season. Of course there will be lots of competition for the backup roles, but these 3 are at the top of the list and will be the starters. There’s some talent here definitely, but the inexperience will make this group one of the weaker groups on the Falcons defense. Here’s to hoping that Coach Raheem Morris and Coach Joe Whitt, Jr. can develop this unit into a solid one as the season progresses.

Who do you have starting?