PHOENIX -- When asked point blank if second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver is expected to be one of the Falcons’ starters in 2019, Dan Quinn didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” the Falcons head coach said.
Although the news doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise given the increased amount of playing time Oliver saw in 2018 coupled with the release of former starting cornerback Robert Alford, this is the first time Quinn has declared Oliver as the starter moving forward.
“There was some on-the-job training that he had to go through, like all rookies do,” Quinn said. “And that’s an important step that you can’t miss. I’m glad that we got that done. It’s the length and size. He’s really patient at the line of scrimmage and he’s really been putting the work in this offseason to get himself into that space to play really well.”
A second-round pick out of the University of Colorado, Oliver played in 14 games in his rookie season with the Falcons and started two of them. He recorded 23 tackles and made one interception.
Quinn often talks about the “on-the-job training” players will go through when they’re first getting acclimated to a new role, as noted above. Oliver is a perfect example of a player who has embraced the lessons and has grown from the experiences, both positive and negative.
As the reps increased throughout the season, Oliver’s play improved. His first interception occurred in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers.
Standing at 6-feet, 201 pounds with a 33-inch wingspan, there’s never been a question regarding if Oliver had the physical skills to be a lockdown cornerback in the NFL. He has the size and speed Quinn likes at the position.
The Falcons have high expectations for their secondary in 2019, given it will be the first time the unit will be fully healthy and will look a bit different than year’s past.
Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are expected to be healthy and able to participate at the start of training camp. Damontae Kazee will be featured at nickel full-time after filling in at free safety in 2018 when Allen was placed on injured reserve.
When asked if cornerback was an area the Falcons could still address in the NFL Draft or in the second wave of free agency, Quinn said it was and that the team is looking to add more depth there.