Countdown to Camp: A look at the cornerbacks

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel losens up with some high kicks for the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel loosens up with some high kicks for the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Birdland – With the opening of the Falcons‘ training camp just a week away, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will take a look at some key positions every day through July 26th. Today we examine the cornerbacks.

The 10-day “Countdown to Camp” series started out with the defensive line and followed by the linebackers.

The players report for training camp next Wednesday and take the field for the first practice at 10:40 a.m. the following day.

Here’s a look at the cornerbacks:

THE REALLY BIG QUESTION: Can the trio of Asante Samuel, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson propel the Falcons pass defense?

Which cornerback will have the most interceptions in 2012?

View Results

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No one will argue with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s claim that cornerback Asante Samuel in one of the top instinctive cornerbacks in the league.

However, he’ll have to tackle much stronger in the Falcons defense in addition to playing the pass.  Over the last three seasons, Samuel has missed a tackle for every 3.7 he attempted, according to profootballfocus.com. That’s tied with Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson for worst in the league.

During that span, Samuel has played 2,460 snaps, made 93 tackles and missed 37. Jackson, a safety, played 1,454 snaps, made 98 tackles and missed 43 tackles.

Samuel, 31, has 45 career interceptions in nine seasons, fourth among active players. His 38 interceptions since 2006 lead the league.

With Samuel, the Falcons are hoping that Dunta Robinson is the answer to their nickel back situation. He played some against slot receivers when he was with the Texans (2004-09).

Brent Grimes, who went to the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season,  will play this season on the team’s franchise tag. He’s set to make $10.281 million in base salary.

Dominique Franks, who will get a shot to earn the punt returner spot, will provide depth. Christopher Owens, who shined on special teams last season, will likely be in a fierce battle to retain his roster spot.

FIVE GOALS FOR THE CORNERBACKS IN 2012

  1. Help improve the third-down defense.
  2. Play much better in man-to-man coverage.
  3. Make more impact plays.
  4. Shut down the opponents slot receivers.
  5. Tackle much better in the open field.

Here’s a look at the cornerbacks:

Brent Grimes: He struggled late last season with a meniscus tear in his knee injury that required surgery. Appeared healthy during the offseason.

Asante Samuel: Will add some much needed attitude and swagger to the defense.

Dunta Robinson: He appears re-energized by the move inside and will get a chance to play more man-to-man coverage.

Darrin Walls: Appears to have a bright feature as a bigger cornerback.

Dominique Franks: He made four starts, had three passes defensed and two interceptions in 2011.

Christopher Owens: He played in 14 games and made one start last season.

Marty Markett: A former walk-on and sprinter on the track team at South Carolina.

Robert McClain: Played in 16 games with Carolina and had 14 tackles in 2010. He was with Jacksonville for two games late last season, but did not see any action.

Peyton Thompson: In four seasons, he had 186 tackles (125 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 22 passes defensed.

Training camp Dates, Practice Times (public availability)

Thursday, July 26 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, July 27 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, July 28 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, July 29 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, July 30 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, July 31 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, August 1 Players’ Day Off

Thursday, August 2 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, August 3 Practice 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

KIA Motors “Friday Night Lights” at Peachtree Ridge High School

6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, August 4 Players’ Day Off

Sunday, August 5 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 6 Walkthrough 11:10 – 11:55 a.m. (closed to the public)

Combined Practice w/ Tennessee Titans

Coahulla Creek High School – Dalton, GA — 4:30 – 7:15 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, August 7 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, August 8 Pregame Walkthrough – No Media Availability

Thursday, August 9 Falcons vs. Baltimore Ravens, Georgia Dome, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, August 10 Players’ Day Off

Saturday, August 11 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, August 12 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 13 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (closed to the public)

Tuesday, August 14 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (closed to the public)

Wednesday, August 15 Pregame Walkthrough – No Media Availability

Thursday, August 16 Falcons vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Georgia Dome, 8 p.m. – FOX (National Broadcast)

Friday, August 17 Players’ Day Off

Saturday, August 18 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (closed to the public)

Sunday, August 19 Walkthrough 10:15 – 11:45 a.m. (closed to the public)

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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70 comments Add your comment

Marcus

July 18th, 2012
6:05 am

DOL,
what is your take on the inability of Grimes and the Falcons to sign a long-term deal before the NFL-imposed deadline for this years franchise players (4 pm on Mon.)?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 18th, 2012
6:32 am

Marcus — He signed his tender so that deadline was not an issue. Cleary he signed it knowing that any extension would have to come later this season or perhaps the Falcons promised him that they’d negotiate in good faith later.

Saints R.E.A.M.

July 18th, 2012
7:13 am

This improvement is a day late but needed. Tight ends are the new x factors for top offenses….finding the versatility to cover them is important…matchup nightmares.

[...] Atlanta-Journal Constitution continues its Countdown to Camp series with the [...]

Paddy

July 18th, 2012
7:33 am

Saints REAM…….good point!

Rod "straight outta Augusta" Johnson

July 18th, 2012
7:39 am

Thanks DLed for the insight on the Cornerbacks. I am hoping Dominique Franks and Darrin Walls see the field more this year. Both are taller corners and will be needed when we are facing the Calvin Johnson’s of the NFL. I am trying not to loose a little faith in Chris Owens, but it is almost gone. I am wondering what happened to the confident corner from his first season to now. He has the talent, I just think we have to find a way to get him back to that level.

JSS

July 18th, 2012
7:55 am

They are playing with fire (future cap) regarding Grimes… It is like people who did not fill up when gas prices were more reasonable…

The window on the secondary is as small as any on this team… It is as dangerous of play as when they tied their wagons to vet like Joe Horn… Samuels seems to be more talented, but this team generally misuses a player’s talents. Will Nolan break that model while depending on what is essentially the same staff? It will be interesting to watch… Still not buying that “rebrand” of the DeCoud model!

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
8:03 am

Is Brent Grimes unhappy? He’s playing on a franchise tag with no guarantees. What if he tears a ligament? Signed the tag after team told him it was CAP related, sees Da Man on the other side get a record breaking contract. Sees his defensive buddy get a long term contract with the team that gave Da Man that record breaking contract. Sees his team sign Assante to a long term contract. Hmmmm, he might be unhappy.

CDFALCONS

July 18th, 2012
8:11 am

Anything less then a Super Bowl will be a fail season. The time is now! No excuses, no failures. Roddy White & Julio Jones should be Pro bowl players this season. Mr. Turner should have over a thousand yard season, this is just the offense, not mentioning Matty Ice until he proves he is the truth to be the Leader of the Dirty Birds” what have you done for me lately”. Coach if this season is a bust ‘you get to packing cause you are outta of here. Just the truth sir! NOW LET PLAY SOME FOOTBAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

CDFALCONS

July 18th, 2012
8:22 am

ONE MORE THING! The NFC South belongs to us the dirty birds this season. Why you ask…… Tampa Buc’s a new head coach. no excuse to lose to them at all this season. Panther’s sophomore year QB all though he is good, No excuses there either…None! As far as the Saint’s go…..no Head Coach…..Just Brees, no Vilma…..need I say it……No excuses there either. I foresee a division sweep…… I Challenge anyone of you to tell me otherwise. DIRTY BIRDS FLY HIGH!!!

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
8:33 am

@CCDFALCAN’TS: I’m telling you otherwise. Saints take the division with ease.

Footloose

July 18th, 2012
8:36 am

Every time the Atlanta Falcons take the football field in any stadium all fans including Saints should bow down and worship and salute the new dynasty in the NFC. Seenthisb4 and hiramsaint start practicing your kudo gras now so you will be extra good at it.

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
8:52 am

LOL! Yea, uh-huh! The only bowing down I do is to the Almighty, especially when I thank him for the falcan’ts being in our division so we can blow them out twice a year.

Footloose, get your shoes shined up, you’re going to want to look your best, when you start dancing around your excuses for all your losses this year! LOL!

Mikefalcon63

July 18th, 2012
9:07 am

The thing that really get me is the fact that Owens is still on the team after essentially stinking it up in 75% of his opportunities to play. I would rather count him as a sunk cost and allow a guy like Walls the chance to see if the game is too big for him. Owens has shown time and again that he can’t cover NFL receivers.

Hoping Franks also gets a shot to play more. He actually has shown some promise when given the opportunity last season.

In short, I really wish I could get in the mind of Tim Lewis and understand what he sees in Owens to keep wasting time trying to develop him when there is likely equal promise with younger guys who have yet to have the opportunity to be tested. I could also say the same thing about Ray Hamilton and Lawrence Sidbury. What does Hamilton not like about Sid? Given the opportunity to play, the guy has shined.

Can't wait for the Falclowns to take the field

July 18th, 2012
9:09 am

To lose to the Saints 2x this year….as you know Failcant fans, this is predicted, expected and will happen….your team is not as good as the Saints….so, spew your jealousy and hatred…we laugh at you while we take yet another NFC South, NFC Championship and Superbowl win this year…if you can’t beat us, join us….who dat, we dat….stay classy….

Mikey

July 18th, 2012
9:10 am

Although few people have changed, I anticipate significant improvement at corner this year. We have three top corners and several talented new stars emerging. We finally have the slot covered with Dunta able to play man-to-man with the best of them. I have watched Darin Walls mature and I like everything I see about him. His stock is rising. He may emerge this year as a very capable backup and will probably see lots of action by the time the season is over. I hope coach Nolan can get Chris Owens back to where he was during his first year. He is one of the fastest players in the NFL and hits like a ton of bricks. He just needs to solidify his coverage. The slot is not his forte and he seems to have lost confidence. He may emerge as a key player, but he may also wash out if he can’t demonstrate solid coverage and better awareness of his assignment. There may also be a rookie in the group that will emerge as a keeper. This will be a great group to watch as we approch the season. I am optimistic that one of the top CB groups in the NFL will emerge from training camp and we NEED it. This is where coach Nolan’s ability to design the defense around player strengths will make a big impact. GO FALCONS! RISE UP!

All the FAILCANTS ever win a playoff game with Melted Ice?

July 18th, 2012
9:12 am

No….must be horrible for MI o wake up every morning knowing he will never be as talented as Drew Brees….but,of course, the FAILCANTS will never be as good as the Saints….

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
9:19 am

The Saint Fans are a hallucinating bunch of morons to honestly think they will beat the Falcons yet again twice this year what a bunch of knuckleheads drinkin too much of that cheap kool-aid once again

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
9:21 am

get them paper bags ready you morons after the first eight games you will have plenty of reasons to wear them

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
9:23 am

Can’t wait for the Falclowns to take the field

We must be really bored with our one man team to be patrolling Falcant articles and talking about our one man team from the arm pit of the south. Don’t know about you, but I am glad Brees signed his contract or we would likely go 0-16. By the way, you and Aliethra should come check out my new single wide trailer for some gumbo and po boys next Friday. Reminds me of my shack back in the ghetto bayou in New Orleans. We could spend a few hours drooling over our one Lombardi trophy, and about 20 seconds wearing paper bags while remembering our extensive history of mediocrity.

Esquire

July 18th, 2012
9:23 am

SeenThisB4

@CCDFALCAN’TS: I’m telling you otherwise. Saints take the division with ease.
___________________________________________________________

I can appreciate you holding on to your hope for a division winning season “with ease” but you’re in nola dissociative disorder. The fact is your beloved aints are closer to finishing 3rd in the South behind the Panthers. Here’s a novel idea, let’s play ‘em before we declare a NFC South Champion.

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
9:30 am

Probably be laughing here once that 100 million dollar man gets hammered and taken off the field still eatin turf grass and suffering a concussion or worse from some team with the payback factor in mind

Esquire

July 18th, 2012
9:32 am

Peyton Thompson’s first interception of the 2009 season was at Stanford coming against Andrew Luck.

Esquire

July 18th, 2012
9:38 am

RG3 signs – The No. 2 overall pick’s contract with the Redskins is worth $21,119,098 over four years.

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
9:39 am

Esquire: And I can appreciate your misguided analysis that the Saints will finish third, you (like cdfalcan’ts) probably buy into the garbage supposition that if you cut off the head, the body will die. In some cases, that may be true, but in the case of the Saints, you cut off the head, two more will generate in its place.

Samuel

July 18th, 2012
9:46 am

The Falcons don’t get much out of their safeties either. I need to see a much improved Decoud. I’m not convinced that Dunta Robinson is the answer.

Esquire

July 18th, 2012
10:09 am

@SeenThisB4

“supposition that if you cut off the head” yadayada………….
____________________________________________________

What I buy into is the falodorousaints have a lousy defense and Brees is going to get “nicked” up. I don’t doubt Brees will be held out of the HOF game against Arizona to prevent payback for the Kurt Warner cheap shot. As Brees goes so do the falodorousaints.

PMC

July 18th, 2012
10:14 am

I think what’s going to happen is that teams try to go at Grimes again because of the height and he will again make all the doubters look stupid. Then he’ll go on to get a good contract from some team next year because the Falcons have made it clear he’s not a guy they want long term and he’ll be too expensive to franchise.

If Dunta looks for the ball rather than the hit this year though he may well lead the team because of how much he’s going to be around the action on the multitudes of seam routes used these days.

Rick

July 18th, 2012
10:16 am

FYI, dont know to many people who would be angry making 10 million a year. Just saying. As for getting hurt, he was hurt last year and still got the franchise tag saying someone in the higher ups must have recognized that he is the man and he will be paid accordingly! Now since we are talking about cornerbacks (let me say it again) TALKING ABOUT CORNERBACKS, lets stick to subject. We will have one of the best secondarys in the game this year. Period. Nothing else to say about that. Dont need to prove it we will just play the games. Tired of bashing “Aint” bloggers on a Falcon blog. That should say enough about these swamp rats! They hanging on a Falcons Blog and for what reason? Ask yourself that question. I am sure you can find some “Aint” blogs to talk to other “Aint” fans! Nice info DLED. Lets roll Birds, time to prey!

Esquire

July 18th, 2012
10:21 am

This Falcons pass defense is going to be fun to watch. Teams will have to try other options other than just throw it 10-15 yards down the field. I expect them to move up considerably from their 20th league ranked pass defense from last year. And there is no reason to see their run defense decline from a NFL ranked 6th. The Falcons are putting some grits back in their D.

Esquire

July 18th, 2012
10:26 am

@PMC

July 18th, 2012
10:14 am
____________________________________

That’s why I picked Grimes getting the most INTs this year……………teams are going to go his way to test that height vs Robinson or Samuel.

North FLA Falcon

July 18th, 2012
10:27 am

Dunta needs to have a breakout year. I do believe he has talent and maybe he’s been in the wrong scheme. Not many balls were thrown his way last year so he seems to have respect from some in the NFL. But he reminds me of Ray Buchanan, all trash talk and “chest bump” tackles instead of WRAPPING THE GUY UP. Back to fundamentals yall.

willie

July 18th, 2012
10:40 am

Still not completely sold on Grimes. I like that they tagged him to get one more look before shelling out $50 mill.

Saints R.E.A.M.

July 18th, 2012
10:50 am

Assante Samuels is not the 2nd coming of Deion. He is known for biting on double moves and getting burned deep. He will play the underneath routes as well as anyone but he can be had (keep safety help over the top). You may remember another similar cornerback named Big Play Ray Buchanan.

Assante can’t tackle. Plain and simple. Without Lofton teams running games will get to the 2nd level and he will need to tackle.

As a result, Tampa Bay & Carolina will play the Falcons very tough this year. And the Saints will still win the division which should prompt the Falcons to fire Smitty.

I don’t know about winning Superbowl but if you can’t win the Division THIS YEAR, Smitty should go.

Saints R.E.A.M.

July 18th, 2012
10:52 am

Falcons head coach search can begin now: Bobby Petrino needs a job…..his bruises have healed from the motorcycle accident….he’s available.

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
10:55 am

adding Samuel to the team will make it be a pick off competition for sure just to see which Falcon cornerback has the honor of most interceptions this year and Abraham and company should do well with the most sacks honors this year thinking the opposing quarterbacks are in for a rough go of it with this new look on defense they will face this year the difference should be like night to day

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
10:57 am

“As Brees goes, so do the Saints.”

How long did it take for you to come to that conclusion Esquire? You think maybe that’s why he was given the Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag? Or the richest contract in the history of the NFL?

Brees is going to consume that falcan’t secondary like a flame feeding on gasoline. You all already know he’s going to burn you.

The real question is not how to stop Brees, cause you won’t, the real question is do you have enough fire to fight back? And right now, you’re all wet.

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
11:06 am

@ Seen we may not even see Breeze by the time we play game one so think on that a minute while I get the blowdryer

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
11:09 am

and by the way Seen you know why the Saints are way down there in louisiana ? its cause they going to be way down there at the bottom of the nfc south division

RobbE33

July 18th, 2012
11:29 am

I hope he’s not another MeAngelo! San Diego can also tell you about corners that refuse to tackle. Until the season’s halfway, I’ll reserve judgement. By the way, ‘Spoon’s tackling stats aren’t that good either but I’ll remain optimistic they both will improve.

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
11:36 am

@Just: I doubt that the Saints will be resting Brees that early in the season, even you guys can’t be mathematically eliminated from the division title that early, so you’ll see him, rest assured, besides he likes setting new passing records against your team.

Rick

July 18th, 2012
11:47 am

For all of you “Aint” fans let me educate you swamp rats a little! The NFC South is the one of if not the toughest divisions in football as evidence that we have not had a back-to-back winner of the division since………….well since I really dont know!!!!! LOL. History says once again (since you swamp rats want to talk about your history old ring cause it is history!!!!) that there will be a new division winner and that winner will be us and not the “AINTS” because you won it last year and if history serves us well the NFC South still has not had a back-to-back winner since……………someone look that up for me! Here is another interesting tid bit for you swamp rats………..Entering 2012 the Falcons and Saints are tied for most wins among division members. The Saints record is 299-386-5; with a 5-8 playoff record. The Falcons record is 299-399-6 with a playoff record of 6-11……………just saying!!!!!! Also since 2002, each team has won at least two division titles, the only such division in the league. So for all you Swamp Rats that want to proclaim the “Aints” as division winners, think again, much like history has shown it will be a different team this year just like it was last year. Get your bags and put them on! Wake up “paper bag AINTS” your day is coming!

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
11:48 am

You make a good laurel n hardy Seen drinkin that kool-aid so much and I hope he is still standing to play that game one it will be interesting to see if he keep the win record going against Atlanta but somehow I cant see him doing it all playing qb,coach and play calls consistantly throughout the year. thats why they have a coach and an offensive coordinator positions on football teams and your two best are long gone now so don’t sit there thinking your one man powerhouse is the messiah too

SeenThisB4

July 18th, 2012
12:02 pm

@Wing it: You’re delusional if you think that the Saints are going to implode cause Payton’s on sabbatical this year. This team is loaded and ready to get their own payback on the NFL for its injustices. (By the way, our offensive coordinator has been Pete Carmichael for the last six years, and he’s still here. You can’t even get your facts straight.)

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
12:14 pm

One point you forgot to mention and that is that the Falcons are loaded and ready to get their payback on Breeze and them Saints also for last year and dont go there with the injustice thing because they are too many facts about that Bountygate scandal on the Table and seriously do you think the NFL commisioner has some kind of vandetta against your team ? You are the complete piece of work known as a Moron.and clearly, the evidence cant be denied, the pay for performance is just a coverup for plain out dirt cheap cheating trying to hurt another opponents team mates is irresponsible and really they should be criminal charges filed against some that were involved in this because they knew better than to do it.

psychobird1213

July 18th, 2012
12:27 pm

I would like to know what exactly the injustices are? All NO fans can do is whine about Katrina and injustices. Always poor me. Your team ran a bounty program sheerly for the purpose of hurting/taking out players. You got what was coming to you and you can Probly expect some karma on top. Oh and have fun with Brees because after this year you will have to dismantle your team just to fit under the cap.

Hudd

July 18th, 2012
12:31 pm

Caption should say loosens up, not losens up. That said, it sure is nice to read the words “Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel.”

Just Wing It

July 18th, 2012
12:41 pm

I suppose Atlanta beats New Orleans this year that will be called an injustice also for sure they will be some lame reason as to blame the injustice on bad calls by the officials favoring Atlanta or some crock of baloney by the whodats that our team cheated to win the game. I just read a poll taken on what fans thought of the Bountygate thing and I leave it at that

What is your opinion of the Bountygate punishments?

Kick them all out forever
8.7%
Should’ve received a stiffer punishment
8.3%
Got what they deserved
28.5%
A bit over the top
20.2%
Way over the top
24.1%
Nobody should have been punished
3.6%
Bountygate is a lie
6.6%
Total votes: 1,114

Falcon James

July 18th, 2012
1:11 pm

We have a pretty good looking backfield on paper. Nolan will give some spark, and the rest will have to come from the players. We have alot of big salaries back there. If we get a small return on the investments, our backfield will not be a problem this year.

FalconsRealFan

July 18th, 2012
1:19 pm

bright feature huh?….lol. guess that makes him a greatly momentus player….ROFL!!!