In my ongoing coverage position by position, this week I will address the defensive backs for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons of course went heavy on defense in the draft choosing in their 1st two picks Desmond Trufant out of the University of Washington at 22 and Robert Alford out of Southeastern Louisiana at 60. Both corners have great size and awesome speed, running in the 4.3 range in the 40 yard dash, and definitely impressed the Falcons brain trust in pre-draft workouts. They will battle for a starting role with the club this season whether it be opposite Asante Samuel or covering the slot in three wide receiver sets. Just getting a small sample at mini-camp of what they can bring to the team, I quickly realized their speed is obviously their strength. Both Trufant and Alford are being “baptized by fire” so to speak because they will go up against both Roddy White and Julio Jones in practice and will have to transition from college stars to going up against seasoned professionals, but I have no doubt they have the physical skill set to be successful.
In the off-season, veteran corners Brent Grimes who was injured all of last season and Dunta Robinson signed with different teams leaving a void in the defensive backfield for the Falcons but the vocal leader still remains, Asante Samuel. Samuel, in his 11th year in the NFL and his 2nd with the Falcons is still a quality corner. His strength remains that he is willing to take chances by making plays on the ball, along with bringing a brashness with knowledge of the game to this suddenly young secondary. His veteran and championship experience will be needed for this team to succeed. With the injury to Grimes last season an opportunity for others to step up came about and Robert McClain emerged as a definite mainstay. McClain, the 4th year corner out of Connecticut impressed fans and coaches alike with his play in 2012. He played in 15 games, starting 3, ended the season with 61 tackles, 10 passes defended, and one interception. McClain, is a tough, physical player that will likely be the 3rd corner or just may play his way into the corner position opposite Samuel if Trufant or Alford do not standout in training camp.
At the safety position, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have become instantly one of the best tandems in the NFL, YEAH I SAID IT. William Moore, the hard hitting safety out of Missouri has emerged as one of the rising superstars for the Falcons, finishing 2012 with 75 tackles, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions. The only problem with Moore has been health over his four year career but no one can deny his contributions to this defense. Thomas DeCoud was a definite question mark a few years ago, but after a career high in interceptions and essentially flourishing in the Mike Nolan Defensive System, he is a force to be reckoned with. In the draft they also picked up Kemal Ishmael out of Central Florida and Zeke Motta from Notre Dame in the 7th Round expanding the depth for the Falcons.
Overall, the secondary for the Atlanta Falcons will have a lot to prove because of the new personnel. This team is essentially replacing two former Pro Bowl corners with young and unproven players, therefore a learning curve will exist but if those draftees pan out it could solve a lot of existing issues for the Dirty Birds.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and the Atlanta Falcons Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. He can be followed on Twitter @coachjdub21 and reached through email at Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.