2015 Falcons: Secondary
The Falcons secondary has undergone notable changes in the years leading up to 2015.
One of the few names still around is Brent Grimes, who received a long-term extension following another strong 2012 season. In 2015, Grimes at age 32 is not as spry as he once was but has been a consistent force and leader in the Falcons secondary over the years. The Falcons bid farewell to both Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel but the Falcons have replaced them with players that they are optimistic can have similar value.
Starting opposite Grimes is former New York Jet Kyle Wilson. Instead of re-signing a 34-year old Samuel in 2015, the team opted for the 28-year old Wilson. In the years since 2011, Wilson developed into one of the league’s best slot corners with the Jets, and hoping to get sustained production from that spot the Falcons snatched him up in free agency.
Adding depth behind Grimes and Wilson are Dominique Franks and Jordan Poyer. The same off-season when the team parted ways with Robinson, they gave Franks an extension to serve as the No. 3 corner. In nickel situations, Wilson kicks inside and Franks enters on the outside. But the team is optimistic that their 2013 draftee out of Oregon State, Poyer, will push Franks for that role. The team fell in love with Poyer, a former third round pick, due to his intensity, toughness, playmaking ability, and return skills. Poyer has spent most of his time during his first two years with the Falcons returning punts. But now that he is entering his third season with the team, they are hopeful he can make major strides defensively to push Franks and give the Falcons four quality corners. Also on the roster is Darrin Walls, who has carved out a nice niche as one of the team’s top special teams cover men.
At safety, the unit is still anchored by William Moore on the strongside. Moore got an extension following the 2012 season. And while he is not considered an elite safety, he is valued as one of the top enforcers in the league. His hard-hitting ways have earned him quite the reputation on the back-end of the field.
The team picked up free safety Nickoe Whitley out of Mississippi State in the second round of the 2014 draft. Whitley sat behind Thomas DeCoud for his rookie season, but the team cut DeCoud due to their belief that Whitley is poised for a breakout season in his second year. Whitley’s aggressiveness mirrors that of Moore, but his ball skills and potential as a centerfielder gives him more upside at free safety.
The team still has managed to retain Charles Mitchell as a reserve. Moore’s hard-hitting has cost him a few games over the years due to injuries, and while Mitchell has never developed into that much of a cover guy, he has filled in ably in run support for the short periods that Moore has missed.