An offseason that anticipated change at the cornerback position for the Falcons turned out to be correct. However, instead of subtraction, Atlanta improved with addition, keeping the core of cornerbacks from the 2011 roster and added Asante Samuel, one of the best corners in the NFL.
Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson return to the Falcons along with Dominique Franks, Chris Owens and Darrin Walls and the addition of Samuel give the Falcons a lot of talent and what secondary coach Tim Lewis calls "limitless possibilities." The top three of Robinson, Grimes and Samuel give the Falcons top talent at the two starting cornerback positions and the nickel position, a role that is considered a starter's job now.
It's unclear just yet who will man the outside and the inside for the Falcons this coming season between the three. Lewis said on Friday at the rookie minicamp that Robinson has the most experience on the inside.
"I don't think he's (Samuel) played any nickel," Lewis said. "I went back and looked at his career and talked to him, I don't think he's ever played inside. But I do know that Dunta Robinson played the nickel position while he was in Houston and had some success with it. We're going to take a look at him in there and of course the guys that we had last year. We'll see how that goes, but the fact of the matter is they've got some talent back there and we're excited about working with them."
The talent on the table at corner will allow the Falcons to do some new things and improve a pass defense ranked 20th last season and 22nd in 2010. With the newly created depth that Franks, Owens and Walls, all players that got valuable snaps last season, means the talent on the table should be capable of improving the pass defense's performance in 2012.
"People in this league love to throw the ball," defensive backs coach Joe Danna said. "You can never have enough good cover guys. I think it'll be a good thing for us."
Danna said between Lewis and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, there shouldn't be a problem creating packages that allow all the corners to creatively play vital roles on Atlanta's defense. Lewis explained the addition of Samuel on the field and Nolan at the helm will allow the Falcons to incorporate some new looks that will combat the increasingly pass-happy NFL.
"I think mixing in pressure, zone and man-to-man, those types of things are what coach Nolan brings to the table, the variety," Lewis said. "You'll see a completely different package. We'll be using our athletes in different ways. The ability to keep people off-guard and off-balance is what he's going to bring."