The Falcons have talent and depth at many spots on their defense, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the secondary.
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According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons have the fifth-best secondary heading into the 2018 season, which is a testament to the work that has been done to bolster the unit around the team’s proven starters.
“Atlanta’s secondary was already among the deepest in the NFL before they added Isaiah Oliver in the second round this past April,” PFF’s Michael Renner writes. “He could be relegated to the Falcons dime packages this fall with both Alford and Trufant earning grades above 80.0 a season ago. Their weakest link comes in the slot where Poole has just barely cracked 70.0 each of his two seasons in the NFL.”
Although Poole is singled out as the weak link of the group, he can certainly hold his own in coverage and his multiple open-field tackles against Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley in the playoffs is an example of his abilities as a run defender. Alongside Poole, the Falcons have two trusted starting cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Trufant’s reputation as a No. 1 cornerback has long been cemented, while Alford was reliable in coverage last season and has great closing speed at the position.
The Falcons are strong at safety as well with Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Allen is very much a student of the game who can help direct the back end of the defense while manning his centerfield free safety position, which he has great feel for. Neal has improved in his two seasons with the Falcons, and he’s become a better player in coverage in addition to his hard-hitting style.
What truly sets the Falcons’ secondary apart, however, is the depth they’ve added. The aforementioned Oliver gives Atlanta a press corner with the size and length to match up against bigger receivers. Second-year safety Damontae Kazee is an exciting player to watch in practice, and he could have a bigger role this fall. The Falcons also added veteran safety Ron Parker this offseason, giving them another veteran in the position group and someone who could fill in if needed to.
The Falcons finished 12th in passing yards per game allowed last season, giving up 214.3 yards through the air to opposing teams. That mark was a vast improvement from the year prior when the Falcons ranked 28th in the league in passing yards per game allowed, but it should be noted that number is inflated due to how often teams were playing from behind.