Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here belong to Matthew Tabeek and not the Atlanta Falcons, unless noted otherwise.
ATLANTA – Much of what happens on the defensive line of scrimmage will dictate how successful the back end of the Falcons defense will be in 2019, especially when it comes to the cornerbacks. We know Falcons coach Dan Quinn plans to be more aggressive, throw lots of different looks at offenses and take full advantage of his personnel in 2019 – and that definitely includes the secondary.
New starting corner: After moving on from longtime starter Robert Alford in early February, Dan Quinn made it clear that second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver would be the other starting cornerback opposite Desmond Trufant heading into 2019. Oliver played in 14 games last year, starting two of them. He made 23 tackles and had one interception. Oliver said that because he has a better grasp of Quinn's defense, he's much more comfortable on the field and can play more aggressively. “He’s got a swagger to him,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “You can see it when he’s out there. He’s confident. He has belief in what he’s doing."
Moving back: Damontae Kazee was the Falcons' standout player during the 2018 preseason, and that momentum carried over into the regular season, despite being moved over into a new role when free safety Ricardo Allen suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. Kazee finished the year with a league-best seven interceptions. With Allen back in the lineup and Quinn planning some new wrinkles in the defense, expect to see Kazee playing a lot more nickel corner this season. “I’m liking it, it’s back to cornerback,” Kazee said. “Back to covering, to my old days. It’s going to be a lot of running, testing my speed out there.”
Short on experience, plenty of confidence: Behind Trufant, Oliver and Kazee, the Falcons are fairly young and inexperienced. Atlanta drafted two cornerbacks in April's draft – Kendall Sheffield in the fourth round and Jordan Miller in the fifth. While both are getting plenty of on-the-job-training right now (especially going up against the likes of Julio Jones in practice), they're embracing it. “I feel like if you can guard [Jones] you can guard anybody in this league,” Miller said. “He’s such a good player. So, I felt like it was in my best interest to get as many reps as I can against a guy like that.”
- 2019 roster forecast: 6 cornerbacks
Barring any unforeseen injuries, a trade or an opportunity to upgrade the position because of another team's roster move (which is always possible in late August), I don't expect any major shake-ups here and for the Falcons to once again carry six cornerbacks in 2019:
- Desmond Trufant
- Isaiah Oliver
- Damontae Kazee
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson
- Kendall Sheffield
- Jordan Miller
Projected practice squad
There's always a chance that the Falcons could sign a player who is not currently on their roster, but if they stick with their own players, this is my projected 10-player practice squad:
- RB Tony Brooks-James
- WR Christian Blake
- DE Tre' Crawford
- DE Austin Larkin
- DE Durrant Miles
- TE Jaeden Graham
- OT Jaelin Robinson
- S Chris Cooper
- QB Danny Etling
- LB Del’Shawn Phillips
What do you think?
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