The addition of Darqueze Dennard could reasonably be interpreted as Atlanta’s attempt to add some quality veteran insurance to their cornerback group. It could be little more than that, but between the rumored expense and length of the contract (somewhere in the ballpark of what the corner-needy Jaguars offered, possibly as high as three years), it seems likelier Dennard is joining to join the starting lineup.
With that in mind, what might the Falcons cornerback depth chart look like in 2020? We don’t even have early glowing reports out of training camp to turn to here, but there’s still educated guesses to be made before you make your own in the comments. Let’s get to it.
#1: A.J. Terrell
The Falcons didn’t draft Terrell to sit, even in a year as weird as this. With his superlative work during the virtual offseason, per the coaching staff, he probably has done enough to put himself in a favorable position for the weeks ahead. Assuming he doesn’t look awful in practices and team scrimmages, the team’s going to throw him into the fire and let him take his lumps.
Terrell’s biggest calling card coming out of college was probably how polished his game is overall, and the Falcons will be relying on him. Unless we hear otherwise (bad practice reports, an injury, the specter of COVID-19), you can put this down in pen.
#2: Isaiah Oliver
This is the spot everyone’s wondering about. Dennard is most comfortable as the nickel cornerback and matching up against slot receivers, and the Falcons will want to put him where he excels. If Terrell is going to get first crack at the top job and is expected to get it, as I believe he will be and is, then that leaves Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield to compete for the outside gig opposite the rookie.
That’s not an easy call, and I don’t expect the Falcons to make this decision lightly. What I do know based on past comments and nicknames (Young Blanket, anyone?), Raheem Morris is quite fond of Isaiah Oliver, a player who now has a full season of lump-taking under his belt, still possesses the size and skillset the Falcons like in their corners, and is the more experienced incumbent not named Blidi Wreh-Wilson. I expect all of those things to add up to Oliver starting the season as a starter, but Sheffield’s skill and athleticism should guarantee that Oliver doesn’t have a lot of room for error.
#3: Darqueze Dennard
Dennard is a sure tackler and is very good in coverage, grading out well a year ago for the Bengals chiefly covering slot receivers. In Atlanta, he’ll likely fill that same role capably, giving Atlanta a veteran starter and a sure thing where the team really didn’t have any.
Dennard’s injury history might prevent him from making a full season’s worth of starts for the Falcons, in which case Sheffield is perfectly capable of filling in. I firmly believe this is who the Falcons want to win this gig, or they wouldn’t have bothered to sign him.
#4: Kendall Sheffield
Sheffield’s versatility, speed, and promise will get him on the field even if he winds up here, as the Falcons clearly believe he can line up outside or inside. In this role, he’ll likely directly back up Dennard, fill in if Oliver or Terrell falters, and get plenty of special teams work. He’s good enough to start, especially for a team without a settled, proven depth chart, but it may not happen right away in 2020.
#5: Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Wreh-Wilson does nothing but fill in capably when called upon. and he’s terrific veteran insurance in case of injury or positive COVID-19 tests. If he has to play something has gone wrong, but you can trust him to do a good job.
This list does not include Jordan Miller, a player I believe the Falcons like a great deal, but also a player who won’t be around for the first couple of games due to a suspension. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up slotting in when he does return, or whether he ends up on that expanded practice squad instead.
How do you have this depth chart shaking out?