FLOWERY BRANCH – We know there are two games left in the exhibition season, but I think it is safe to award cornerback Darrin Walls the MVP of the undrafted rookie free agent class.
Christopher Owens, who’s in a battle at nickel back, suffered a hamstring injury Tuesday and did not practice Wednesday.
With Dunta Robinson (hamstring) not expected to play, Walls, from Notre Dame, will move up to the third cornerback spot if Owens can’t play against the Steelers.
Walls, a native of Pittsburgh, grew up a Steelers fan. I didn’t ask him, but he probably still has a Terrible Towel somewhere back at his parents’ house.
“To play against a team I watched growing up makes it more special,” Walls said. “It’s not just another game, but it’s a chance for me to go out there and try to make the team.”
Falcons coach Mike Smith has been raving about Walls, who’s 6-foot, 190 pounds, since he made a couple of plays in punt coverage against Miami.
“He’s caught our attention,” Smith said. “He’s earned an opportunity to get some playing time.”
On Wednesday, while playing with the first-team nickel defense, Walls looked fluid and very comfortable in coverage. He batted down his share of passes.
Pittsburgh is not normally a recruiting hotspot for Notre Dame.
“I was being recruited by a couple of different schools and Notre Dame was the best fit for me,” Walls said. “Coach [Charlie] Weis and his staff did a good job of recruiting me and I felt real comfortable there.”
Walls picked Notre Dame over Florida and Penn State. He was a USA Today All-American pick as a cornerback-running back out of Woodland Hills High.
Walls doesn’t plan to rest on his solid play.
“I’ve made some strides,” Walls said. “I’m getting better, but I also know that there is a lot that I need to improve on and I’m still working on those things.”
After a strong career for the Fighting Irish, Walls was hoping to get drafted.
“I think coming out of college everybody wants to be drafted,” Walls said. “It was a bit of a disappointment, but I think I use that as motivation here at the next level. I just tried to see and look at the teams that were interested in me and tried to pick the best situation. I visited here, met the staff and felt real comfortable with the staff and the players.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog