Losing Jalen Collins to a 10-game suspension will bend but not break the Atlanta Falcons defense.
Think back to Jalen Collins ripping the ball from Aaron Ripkowski and recovering the fumble during the NFC Championship Game. Collins’s athleticism and strength displayed during that play is what will be missed most by the Atlanta Falcons. Well, missed for at least the first 10 games of 2017.
Seven months after starting in the Super Bowl, Jalen Collins finds himself suspended without pay for 10 games. Just a few days away from their first preseason game, the Atlanta Falcons are auditioning for the role of nickel cornerback.
Those waiting for a Darrelle Revis signing or big trade shouldn’t hold their breath. And no, the Falcons will not cut Jalen Collins, not even after receiving his second drug suspension. Collins is simply too talented and Atlanta is too invested.
Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn will do what was done in 2016 by filling some of the void left from within. Think back to last season when the already-struggling Atlanta Falcons defense lost star cornerback Desmond Trufant to injury. Collins was the player thrust into the starting role and despite some early bumps, his play exceeded all expectations.
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If there’s any silver lining to Collins’s suspension, it’s that Quinn’s staff has been contingency planning for at least two weeks now. Though the suspension was announced just a few days ago, the Atlanta Falcons knew it was coming much sooner. If you don’t believe it, revisit the mysterious speculation surrounding his drop to 3rd team on the cornerback depth chart.
Veteran defensive back Brian Poole seems the most likely candidate to play the nickel in Week 1. Poole has the experience in the Falcons defense but struggled mightily in zone coverage. 2nd year corner C.J. Goodman has the size more comparable to Collins, but isn’t as athletic. Rookie Damontrae Kazee is a dark horse to watch for this preseason. Its unlikely Kazee finds himself playing nickel anytime soon, but he’s been an absolute ball hawk during camp.
However the position battles shake out, we can be sure Quinn’s defense will adjust scheme to better utilize unit strengths. The Falcons overcame the loss of Trufant in 2016 and they’ll do the same over their first 10 games without Jalen Collins.
For what it’s worth, the new void in the secondary makes the Atlanta Falcons preseason games more interesting.