The Falcons secondary could undergo some changes. Perhaps Jason Webster is cut at some point this off-season, a possibility. But I think the biggest factor will be based on whether the team thinks Jimmy Williams is ready to be a starter in the NFL at cornerback.
From his play last year, I’m not so sure. Williams showed that he could tackle as well as a starting cornerback, if not better than most. But I saw very little out of his abilities in coverage that fill my insides with warm fuzzies. That could develop this year, but I’d rather take the wait and see approach. If Williams steps up this summer, then Jason Webster will be one of the better nickel backs in the NFL. If Williams does not, then the Falcons may have to think seriously about spending some $$$ or another high draft pick on the position come 2008.
DeAngelo Hall didn’t join the elite cornerbacks. He’s still one of the better guys in the league, but when the chips were down, he didn’t come through. Hall says it was because the coaching staff asked too much of him last year, which took him away from simply being the playmaker that he believes he is. That translates to me as Hall blaming Webster for his woes, since I’m assuming “asking too much of him” equates to “covering the other guy’s buttocks.” I’ll let that excuse slide for now, assuming Hall starts to look like the elite cornerback he says he is or at least wants to be.
Safety proved to be better than it was in 2005, but at some points, not much better. For what the Falcons gained in run support, they lost in coverage. Not an unforseen outcome (at least by me). I knew going into the year that the strengths of Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy was not playing coverage, but rather hurting tight ends and receivers going over the middle. One could say the “bend but don’t break” philosophy of the former coaching staff didn’t help in disproving that idea. Hopefully the new coaches will be a bit more aggressive with their defensive play-calling, which should allow Milloy and Crocker to both do what they are best at: cracking skulls.
As for what needs to happen this off-season, the Falcons need to address depth. Most expect a high pick to be used on a safety in the draft. I don’t disagree with that. Milloy is old and probably has another 1 or 2 in him. Crocker is nothing special, and right now looks better coming off the bench than as a starter. Hopefully the Falcons can pick up a young safety that can take Milloy’s role as the leader of the secondary. But not only should the Falcons use a high draft pick here, they should also address the poor depth here. Lance Schulters was a band-aid solution late in the year. The Falcons should have done something earlier. Hopefully they don’t make the same mistake by going into this year with Omare Lowe being one of their best options there.
The tenures of Kevin Mathis and Allen Rossum as Falcons may be coming to an end soon. But they’ve managed to stick around a lot longer than I thought originally when they were signed, so it wouldn’t surprise to see it happen again. But because of this, the Falcons also need to address depth at cornerback. A young developmental body would be nice via the draft, but the Falcons shouldn’t spurn a cheap veteran in free agency as well.
Frankly, as far as depth goes, the Falcons could use all the help they can get in the secondary.