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Competition Heating Up at Cornerback for Falcons

As the Falcons prepare for their third preseason game of 2016, Atlanta's coaching staff is keeping a close eye on the cornerbacks — specifically, those fighting for jobs behind Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.

The competition at CB was a focal point throughout minicamp, OTAs, training camp and the first two exhibition contests, and that's unlikely to change over the next several weeks. Instead, this battle will likely get more intense.

"We're still taking a real long and hard look at that," Quinn said Friday. "That's exactly one of the positions that we're really digging hard on and that will be at our focus this week."

Finding the right No. 3 corner is especially important in Atlanta's defense. Alford, who believes he has the skill set needed to cover shifty slot receivers, could spend a lot of time inside when the Falcons run their nickel package, which they use roughly 60 percent of the time.

If Alford is solely used in nickel, the question becomes, who will stand opposite Trufant?

According to Quinn, Akeem King, C.J. Goodwin and Brian Poole are jostling for that role. It's a young group, to be sure, but each took encouraging strides during the offseason.

King, picked in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, has the aggressiveness and length Quinn likes in his secondary. The converted safety has made some nice plays thus far during preseason — including an impressive open-field tackle in Week 1 that forced a fourth down — and looks more polished than he did last year. He appears to be a lot more confident, as well.

"I'm going to come out and start — nothing less," King told in June. "Just trying to be the best. That's the mentality. … I feel a lot more comfortable. I was kind of new to the position last year, so having a whole offseason to get to watch film and get better at corner really helped me a lot."

Poole has garnered praise for his physicality, which was evident during his NFL debut against Washington. During an outside run play in the second quarter, Poole shed a block, tracked down Robert Kelley and drove the RB backward, allowing the Redskins to gain only one yard.

"Brian's another guy who's very, very aggressive in his approach," GM Thomas Dimitroff said. "He has a swagger about him that you normally don't see in a first-year guy. He's done a really nice job out there working hard. He's a combination guy that can sit up there in press very well and turn out. He's really aggressive with that, and it's been impressive watching him."

Goodwin, a receiver-turned-cornerback, is among the most intriguing players on the roster. At 6-foot-3, he has unique size for a DB, and as a former wideout, his pass-catching ability can be an asset in the defensive backfield. The former Steeler exhibited that skill when he picked off Matt Schaub in the end zone during Friday Night Lights.

"He's got length, he's got speed, so he's got some of the prerequisites," Quinn said about Goodwin at FNL. "He does not look out of place playing defensive back. Marquand (Manuel) especially has done a good job training him. So we're pumped to see where he can go over these next few weeks."

Not to be forgotten, Jalen Collins has put together a solid training camp. Following his four-game suspension to start the season, he can very well jump right back into the mix.

"We've played him both outside and in nickel," Quinn said of Collins. "He's really done a good job. He's in a good place, and he's really working at it hard."

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