FLOWERY BRANCH – The two major pillars of the Falcons “secondary improvement plan” have not spent a great deal of time together on the practice fields.
The battle to improve the NFL’s 28th ranked pass defense has gotten off to a slow start in training camp.
Secondary coach Tim Lewis has been working hard in the heat, while cornerback Dunta Robinson is taking care of
his tight hamstring.
Robinson usually goes through a workout with a member of the training staff. Then he works the sidelines during the drills. He’s usually trying to help the young cornerbacks. On Tuesday, he went over to play “peace-maker” in the Roddy White and Rashean Mathis squabble.
On Wednesday, he chatted up second-year cornerback Christopher Owens after he got chewed out by an assistant coach.
Coach Mike Smith has explained that the team is being extremely cautious with Robinson’s hamstring. However, the Falcons likely still need some training camp time to get him fully integrated into the defense. They also have to find out who the other starting cornerback is going to be in Pittsburgh come Sept. 12.
Robinson is a natural right cornerback and played “match” corner last season with the Houston
Texans, where he just matched up with the opponent’s top receiver.
The Falcons problem is that Brent Grimes‘ best spot is on the right side.
Arguably, their two best corners play the same side. (I know you all have heard the little joke about buying some new shoes and ending up with two right shoes?)
Owens finished last season as the starting left corner. Brian Williams, who opened the season as the starting left cornerback, is battling back from major knee surgery.
Grimes played on the left some last season, but that didn’t work out so well. Owens is also learning the nickel, where Chevis Jackson has played most of the last two seasons.
“We are really trying to find a good spot for him where he’s comfortable and where he’s effective,” Lewis said of Grimes. “That’s what the training camp is really for.”
Robinson tried the left side during the offseason workouts. He concluded that he liked the right side much better and requested a move back to the right side.
Robinson looks fine when running with the trainers. So, it’s likely just a matter of time before he returns to practice.
“I coach him pretty hard over there on the sidelines,” Lewis said.
But in order to sync up the coverages, the Falcons will need Robinson on the field with the rest of the secondary at some point in training camp.
“From an ‘out there’ standpoint, cornerback play is a funny thing,” Lewis said. “It’s like (offensive) line play where rhythm, timing and balance (is important.) The good ones can cover. They just need time to get their rhythm, timing, balance and footwork, where they can plant and drive. That timing, where they have the sense that the guy is coming up on me, open my hips.
“The angles; OK, the guy ran an out route, I have to break at this angle. It’s all about rhythm, timing and angles. The good ones don’t lose that.”
At six-years and $57 million, the Falcons clearly think Robinson is one of the “good ones.”
The Falcons believe they’ve seen enough of Robinson that it won’t take much time for their coverages to become tight.
“Cohesiveness, I think that’s already there,” Lewis said. “I can tell you that because of what goes on in our meeting room. They are a tight group. They spend time together off the field and they spend time together here. We have a very close knit group.”
Robinson will probably rest that hamstring another week or so and get ready for some action in all-important third exhibition game. In the mean time, Grimes, who led the team in interceptions last season, needs to start getting comfortable on the left side.
Thursday, August 12 — Practice 8:50 – 10:55 a.m. (closed to the public); practice 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. (closed to the public).
Friday, August 13 — Preseason Week 1 vs. Kansas City 8 p.m.
Saturday, August 14 –No Practice.
Sunday, August 15 — Practice 9:30 – 11:35 a.m. (open to the public); practice 3:45 – 5:25 p.m. (open to the public).