With the news that came on Monday concerning the loss of Brent Grimes, some in Falcons nation are concerned about the Falcons' ability to defend what appears to be a rejuvenated Peyton Manning and his new Denver Broncos offense.
While things change over time, including players and coaches, the Falcons have a number of players and coaches that have a history with Manning and the coaching staff of Denver.
With Grimes out at cornerback, Asante Samuel steps into the starting role opposite Dunta Robinson. Backups Chris Owens and Dominique Franks will compete this week to take over the third CB spot. Smith said on Monday that he felt Owens had the experience to be multiple and step in for the Falcons.
"Through the offseason, as we're putting together out opening day roster, we play guys at right corner, left corner, cross trained them because there are match situations as the season goes on that we'll have to distribute our defensive backs in that way," Smith said. "Chris is definitely a guy that's got some experience and some playing time."
Dating back to his New England playing days, Samuel has a lengthy history against Manning. As the QB for the Colts from 2003-2010, Samuel has faced Manning 11 times.
During his interview last week with D-Block, the weekly linebackers' show on AtlantaFalcons.com, Samuel said his interception against Manning in the playoffs following the '06 season was one of the highlights of his career. That particular interception was returned for a touchdown.
But Samuel has more than just that one pick in his 11 meetings with the Pro Bowl QB. The Falcons' newest corner has 11 pass breakups against Manning and three interceptions. In addition to his playoff interception in '06, Samuel picked off Manning twice in one game during the 2010 season as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith is very familiar with Manning, as well. As the defensive coordinator of the Jaguars from 2003-2007, he faced off against Manning twice every season. In total, he's faced Manning 10 times as the coordinator in Jacksonville. Smith and his defense consistently played Manning tough, holding Manning's prolific offense to less than 30 points in every meeting.
Smith and the Jaguars were 3-7 against Manning and the Colts and Smith's defense held Manning to 23 points twice, 24 points twice, 21 points, 17 points and 10 points. Manning's highs against Smith's D were 26 points once, 28 points once and 29 points once.
Additionally Smith is extremely familiar with Denver's defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio. While Smith was the D-coordinator in Jacksonville, Del Rio was the head coach.
Extending the connection between Smith and the current Denver coaching staff is Atlanta's head coach's link to Denver's head coach. John Fox is the former head coach of NFC South rival Carolina Panthers. Smith faced off against Fox two times each season from 2008-2010.