I started things off with a report on Curtis Lofton, but now I want to move onto another defender: cornerback Brent Grimes, the small but scrappy undrafted free agent from a Division II school that has developed into a key contributor and potential starter.
Pros: Has good speed and athleticism. Has good leaping ability which means he can challenge bigger receivers for the ball. Shows good ball skills and plays the ball well in the air. Does his best work when he’s allowed to keep things in front of him, and rarely lets defenders get behind him. Shows good, consistent tackling technique because he breaks down and wraps up and is able to make stops on the edge and in space.
Cons: Lacks ideal size and despite athleticism, he is fairly easily outmuscled in traffic by bigger receivers. Lack of size also makes him a non-factor in press coverage, forcing him at times to give up too much cushion. This causes him to give up a lot of completions underneath. His lack of size also means that if his tackling ever gets sloppy, he’s prone to missing tackles.
2010 Outlook: The bottom line on Grimes is that most of his issues are due to his less than outstanding size, but he makes up for a lot of it with toughness, work ethic, and playmaking ability, all the intangibles necessary for success in this league. This makes him a coach’s favorite and even if he goes through some struggles or begins to slump, eventually he will bounce back. At worst that makes him a valuable role player, and at best a capable starter.
Grimes is the incumbent starter opposite newcomer Dunta Robinson at cornerback. And while he only has three years of actual playing experience, this is in fact his fifth summer with the Falcons making him one of the veteran leaders of a young Falcons secondary. He’ll likely be pushed by second year corner Chris Owens. And while I think the onus is on Owens to show he’s capable of being the starter, it’s clear the coaching staff has no bones about “settling” for a player like Grimes in the starting lineup. It won’t be an easy task for Owens to leapfrog Grimes on the depth chart because for reasons I mentioned earlier, Grimes is always a standout in the summer.
If Grimes does happen to lose his starting job, his role on defense likely won’t be any less vital. Because of his experience and intangibles, the coaches have the ability to move him around and fill any holes. While he worked almost exclusively on the outside last year, he could be potentially moved into the slot when the team goes to its nickel defense this year.
Grimes is “safe” for the coaching staff. He doesn’t give up a ton of big plays, nor does he make a lot of mental mistakes. But he’s far from a shutdown corner, but meshes well with bend but don’t break style of defense the Falcons employ. And his ability to create plays is crucial with that style.
In Summary… Grimes isn’t likely to get a whole lot better this season. While Falcons coaches will be working on the secondary’s fundamentals and technique, Grimes was one of the few among the group last year that wasn’t really lacking in that area. Obviously, he has some room to grow but not a whole lot in that area. Not to mention the six interceptions he recorded last season in what amounts to a breakout campaign. The key for Grimes instead is maintaining his level of play more than anything. And with his toughness and intangibles that shouldn’t be too hard to do.