Camp Battles ’10: Cornerback
The cornerback position may face the most competition of any unit on the roster from top to bottom.
Essentially the only player that is assured a roster spot is free agent pickup Dunta Robinson. Robinson was the Falcons most major addition to the roster this off-season. Solid preseason play from this position has been a rarity since Mike Smith took over, and the Falcons hope Robinson can help reverse that.
The other starting position will face heavy competition. Brian Williams is the incumbent, re-signed to a one-year contract, but is coming off a knee injury. Williams had already lost a step before the injury, and it remains to be seen if he still has enough in the tank to hold off the youth the Falcons have at the position.
His chief competition should come from Brent Grimes and/or Chris Owens. Grimes played well in the nickel role last season, and was a playmaker late in the year as a starter. Owens didn’t get a ton of playing time until the last month or so of the season, but showed promise. It would appear the team would prefer having one of them manning the other outside spot opposite Robinson.
Williams was utilized as a slot corner last year, and he it remains to be seen if either Owens or Grimes will get opportunities there as well. Last year when WIlliams went down, that position was manned by Chevis Jackson. Jackson had a disappointing sophomore year, but the coaches hope he can bounce back with a strong summer. Because of his experience playing in the slot, he has a legit chance of earning the nickel back position.
Pushing Jackson will be rookie Dominique Franks. A fifth round pick, Franks probably won’t be counted on to make a big impact as a rookie. He will have a chance to push for a reserve role, but more than likely the Falcons will utilize him on special teams at least early on. But a strong summer from Franks could spell and end to Willaims or Jackson’s Falcon career.
The other corner on the roster is Daylan Walker, an undrafted rookie. It’s also possible that fellow rookie Gabe Derricks may get opportunities here as well, despite being listed as a safety. Both players are long shots to make the roster, and essentially will need strong preseason performance to make the practice squad.
The Falcons will certainly keep five corners, but may opt to go for six, especially if Williams and Jackson show enough to merit being kept around.