If you’re familiar with the legendary Muhammad Ali, you may also be in the know when it comes to describing his style of boxing. He relied on a tactical move called the “Rope-A-Dope,” where he leans on the ropes, allows his opponent to tire themselves out, and then later in the fight, he attacks. Often, it resulted in a win for Ali.
Well, the Atlanta Falcons front office pulled the Rope-A-Dope on all of us yesterday, letting us think they were done with free agency and then pouncing. A late July free agency signing was not foreseen and the Falcons pulled a fast one.
As a result, the Falcons signed veteran corner Darqueze Dennard on Thursday. Dennard is quite simply a veteran that bolsters their cornerback group and allows another dose of versatility to their defense. Today, we will examine Dennard’s skill setand how he improves the Falcons.
Darqueze Dennard Scouting Report
Weight: 206 lbs
Career stats: 274 total tackles, 22 pass deflections, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, three sacks
When it comes to the skill set of Dennard, he’s the type of defender that does a lot of things well. Yet, he may never gain headlines for it.
Despite a decent frame for NFL standards, Dennard is a physical corner that excels in press coverage. When it comes to getting into the grill of a receiver, Dennard is eager to mix it up. There are very few corners in the NFL that provides a tackling pedigree better than Dennard. The veteran is outstanding when it comes to attacking the frame of the ball carrier and making clean, precise tackles. Dennard was limited to nine games in 2019 but he only allowed 23 receptions, 9.0 yards per receptions and gave up zero touchdowns. Oh, he also allowed a measly 79.2 QB rating when targeted last season. That’s pretty good, ladies and gentlemen.
Dennard displays proper technique when it comes to reading his receiver and reacting. His route recognition is polished, which is the result of having a very well rounded football IQ. Even with very limited work, Dennard ranked 17th in the NFL with his Pro Football Focus coverage grade (76.0) in 2019, and it was deserved. For the past few seasons, Dennard has quietly established himself as one of the best slot corners in the NFL.
If you have eyes for corners that are wickedly fast and possess Olympic speed, then Dennard does not necessarily check those boxes. Going back to the 2014 NFL Combine, Dennard timed a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash. His straight line speed is merely okay.
Also, Dennard is not known to snag a number of interceptions, with only three during his six-year career. In addition, a notable reason why Dennard was still on the market this late in the offseason is his injury history. During his career, he has had knee, hamstring and shoulder issues. He also has only played a full 16 games just once in his career.
While he can see spot duty as a boundary corner, Dennard’s lack of length is something that teams can find ways to pick on in the passing game. With the likely mixing and matching that occurs in the Falcons scheme, it is something to be mindful of at least.
Impressively this offseason, the Atlanta Falcons have made themselves a significantly better team. Adding the likes of Todd Gurley and Dante Fowler grabbed the headlines. But the quiet signings of veterans such as Deone Bucannon and Darqueze Dennard will also help the Falcons in a much needed fashion.
Dennard is not a superstar to most but to those who are football nerds, Dennard is exceptional at what he does. The former first round pick is a natural fit in the slot which will probably bump second-year corner Kendall Sheffield to the outside. Either way, the Falcons secondary took a necessary step in the right direction with the addition of Dennard.
Having him on the roster does not rush the development of 2020 first rounder A.J. Terrell. Expect Dennard to be a key piece going forward for Atlanta, nonetheless. The best case scenario is that Dennard stays healthy, Terrell develops gradually, and the Falcons cornerback group potentially becomes one of the best group on the Falcons defense.