Depth Chart: Owens to get shot at nickel vs. Manning

Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens has an injury hamstring. He will be a game-time decision.

Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens here working out at Buford High during the lockout. (Johnny Crawford/Jcrawford@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons rated Christopher Owens as their fourth cornerback when they cut down to 53-man roster.

With Brent Grimes going down for the season, Owens, who’s had a bumpy start to his career, is the so-called “next man up” and will get an opportunity to reclaim his starting position.

While Dunta Robinson appears set to move back out to right cornerback after Grimes started there against Kansas City, Owens could be headed back inside in the nickel defense.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing in the NFL for Owens, who was drafted in the third round (90th overall) of the 2009 draft out of San Jose State.

He had a promising rookie season as he started six games and played in all 16 games. He finished with 21 tackles and two interceptions.

In 2010, Owens had an up-and-down campaign. He was the team’s top nickel back before being slowed by a back injury.

He returned to the lineup after Brian Williams suffered a knee injury. He struggled mightily against Green Bay in the divisional playoff game.

Last season, Owens played primarily on special teams as Dominique Franks and Kelvin Hayden split the nickel back duties.

He moved back ahead of Franks during training camp and could be ready to fulfill the promise that he showed early in his career.

“There are going to be bumps in the road, anytime that you go on a journey,” Owens said at his locker on Tuesday. “You just have to fight through it. Any journey worth anything, you’re going to have some challenges.”

Owens, a native of Compton, Calif., believes he’s been through the toughest part of this trek. He somehow has managed to keep a positive outlook.

“Every time I step on the field, I’m looking for that light whether if it’s special teams or as a gunner running down on coverage,” Owens said. “It’s always an opportunity to show what you’re about and what kind of player that you are.”

While in an reserve role, Owens continued to practice like he was going to play. He is hoping that approach will play off this time around.

“I’ve played outside,” Owens said. “I’ve played left corner. I played right corner. I’ve played inside in the nickel. It’s just about staying grounded and doing the little things.”

Owens is the prototypical nickel. He’s physical, tough and can change directions quickly. He continues to show off his speed on special teams, when he ran down two returners to keep touchdowns off the board last season.

“Chris is a very resilient guy,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He’s going to get an opportunity to be back in it in a different role this week than what he played last week.”

The Falcons signed Terrence Johnson, who played some nickel back last season for Indianapolis. Also, Robert McClain, who played previously with Carolina and Jacksonville, and Dominique Franks have played some nickel back experience.

McClain finished ahead of Franks as the fifth corner in the final cut down. Franks, who played in 11 games and started four games last season, was re-signed after wide receiver Tim Toone suffered a hamstring injury.

“Robert showed what he’s capable of doing in the preseason,” Smith said. “He won a roster spot by the way that he performed.”

McClain can play both inside and outside. He played in 16 games and made two starts for Carolina after being drafted in the seventhround of the 2010 draft.

“Any time you have a chance to get on the game field, you have to take advantage of it,” McClain said. “Injuries happen on every team and you have to be ready to step in.”

Franks returned the lone punt in the 40-24 victory over Kansas City.

“He’s going to get another opportunity to compete as well,” Smith said. “Dom has started games in the NFL both as an outside corner and as an inside corner.”

Franks seemed to take the injury to Grimes the hardest.

“Grimey going down really hurt me,” Franks said. “He’s really a mentor and big brother and not just a teammate. He’s been through a lot. He took the long route to become one of the good corners in the league. I tried to soak up as much information as I could from that guy.”

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones 83 Harry Douglas

LT 72 Sam Baker 76 Lamar Holmes

LG 63 Justin Blalock 68 Philipkeith Manley

C 62 Todd McClure 61 Joe Hawley 66 Peter Konz

RG 75 Garrett Reynolds 66 Peter Konz 79 Mike Johnson

RT 77 Tyson Clabo 79 Mike Johnson 76 Lamar Holmes

TE 88 Tony Gonzalez 81 Michael Palmer 87 Tommy Gallarda

WR 84 Roddy White 15 Kevin Cone

QB 2 Matt Ryan 12 Luke McCown 4 Dominique Davis

RB 33 Michael Turner 44 Jason Snelling 32 Jacquizz Rodgers 35 Antone Smith

FB 45 Lousaka Polite

DEFENSE

RE 55 John Abraham 90 Lawrence Sidbury 98 Cliff Matthews

DT 94 Peria Jerry 99 Vance Walker

DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux 92 Travian Robertson

LE 93 Ray Edwards 71 Kroy Biermann 96 Jonathan Massaquoi

OLB 56 Sean Weatherspoon 51 Robert James

MLB 52 Akeem Dent 53 Mike Peterson

OLB 54 Stephen Nicholas 53 Mike Peterson

CB 23 Dunta Robinson 21 Chris Owens  Terrence Johnson

CB 22 Asante Samuel  27 Robert McClain 29 Dominique Franks

S 25 William Moore 24 Chris Hope

S 28 Thomas DeCoud 26 Charles Mitchell

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 32 Jacquizz Rodgers

PR 83 Harry Douglas  29 Dominique Franks

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

THE LATEST NEWS

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Video: What loss of Grimes means

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Still room for improvement in run game

Matt Ryan, Dirk Koetter form bond on and off the field

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

63 comments Add your comment

Tampa-1

September 11th, 2012
6:39 pm

Owens to get torched by Manning is the more likely scenario thereby propelling us to an even further 1st place lead

Tampa-1

September 11th, 2012
6:39 pm

First…just like our team !

JSS

September 11th, 2012
6:43 pm

Ledbetter, why in the world would they bring Owens inside when he’s shown that is not his strength instead moving Robinson in the slot on Nickels?

And is there any news on Owens penalty from the league on the fight?

Green Bay

September 11th, 2012
7:01 pm

Owens showed what he was worth 2 years ago. We burned him all night and played a big role in us getting to the Super Bowl. Atlanta was loaded that year, but didn’t get a third corner. They will be looking at repeat performance if they don’t get him off the field quickly. Exposure will start on Monday night!!

Michael M.

September 11th, 2012
7:19 pm

I never have been impressed with Owens either but he is known for speed but bringing in a replacement for Grimes, it will take a little while for the new guy to get use to what the defense is trying to do this year…………………..Nolan will shake things up on the ” D ” this week…………..wait n see………………….

Tampa.you say we in second place but really the Bucs are just keeping the seat hot at the moment………………………………

Big Ray

September 11th, 2012
7:40 pm

My guess is that the decision on where Owens plays Monday night has yet to be made, and even if it was, I don’t see a quote anywhere in this article or any other that says Owens will be at NCB. More likely, it would be DRob.

But…if he plays at NCB and begins to get destroyed, at least we know Nolan would make a change. Van Gorder would leave it that way for 4 quarters and then yell at the guys and say “play harder.”

Might not matter anyway. Facing Peyton Manning will be daunting enough. Could get ugly very quickly.

coacht

September 11th, 2012
7:41 pm

Some coaching going on this week. I think with Optimum Grimes’ recent knee injury the staff probably had some idea of a backup plan…..I also like Robinson inside but we’ll see what the game plan dictates vs. the Broncos and Manning. Might not be the same sets. We’ll see. Gotta be at least as dangerous as whatever BVG would scheme up.

Big Ray

September 11th, 2012
7:43 pm

Tampa,

Congratulations. The Panthers beat themselves to death trying to help you win. The kitty cat offensive line apparently could not keep Cam Newton safe OR open holes for the best running back tandemn in the NFC South. And Cam Newton kept throwing the ball to you so you could have another shot at scoring.

They beat themselves. Y’all just happened to be on the field to reap the benefits. You won’t have it nearly so easy against us.

Shane

September 11th, 2012
7:45 pm

I so am not feeling this move for all the obvious reasons

Big Ray

September 11th, 2012
7:46 pm

Green Bay,

Ummm…do y’all have a win yet? Because judging by the way Chicago played this past Sunday, you might be looking for a win in Week 3. I mean, they aren’t going to pimp you out the way the Niners did, but they still may beat you.

Big Ray

September 11th, 2012
7:48 pm

Shane,

There’s nothing to feel. What did you think might happen? All the “good” CBs are taken, so we have to go with what’s on the roster. Owens made the team, Franks got cut and then re-signed later, and we are in salary cap hell, partially because we slapped a big fat franchise tender on the recently brittle Grimes. We’re screwed unless somebody steps up.

Loyalfalconfrmthemississippi

September 11th, 2012
8:09 pm

Our guys will step up, tampa fans are delusional well at least the one that seems to be trolling our blog while they have a winning record till week two lol

Whynot Us

September 11th, 2012
8:13 pm

To anyone who thinks that Owens can’t play on this level because they have seen him get torched in the past, does that mean that players never develop and get better? If I remember correctly, Grimes was an undrafted free agent who took years to win a starting job; and there are plenty of other examples. Not saying Owens is the answer, but sometimes when players get an unexpected opportunity the armchair experts get surprised…

[...] “sweet” playing on the field. I will also give one player more… Depth Chart: Owens to get shot at nickel vs. Manning – blogs.ajc.com 09/11/2012 Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens has an injury hamstring. He [...]

Chucktown38

September 11th, 2012
8:48 pm

Man I wish we still had Chris Houston on the team with this new D.

Chucktown38

September 11th, 2012
8:52 pm

With our CB’s I like 23 on the inside and 29 playing outside.

Big Mike

September 11th, 2012
8:53 pm

Whynot Us wrote, “sometimes when players get an unexpected opportunity the armchair experts get surprised…”

I admire your boundless optimism Sir/Madam, but I do not expect that the “sometimes” to which you refer will be this time.

JSS

September 11th, 2012
9:11 pm

Leaving Atlanta saved Houston’s career… Be glad for the kid…

Whadda Ya Know?

September 11th, 2012
9:41 pm

I like that they’ve decided to go with Owens in the nickel and give him a chance to step up again. We know he was pretty raw coming here and had blind azz BVG leading him (blind leading the blind). Owens is quick and physical. Dunta is the one that scares me in this game back on the right side. Hopefully Nolan has some stunts up his sleeve to get some pass rush on Peyton.

Tampa-1

September 11th, 2012
9:58 pm

And a good troller at that because y’all are biting like a gator with a chicken swinging in front of hom

the silverman

September 11th, 2012
10:00 pm

Dled why is it that last game Sidbury was inactive for Kansas City for Cliff Mathews but is listed ahead of him on the depth chart?

falCANS

September 11th, 2012
10:12 pm

DAUNTE HAS TO PLAY INSIDE….hes the extra safety on nickel coverage run/blitz plays. Ive seen Owens shutdown T.O. Hope he plays well but if not expect Franks to step up in a big way

RESIGN OR RE-SIGN?

September 11th, 2012
10:12 pm

Is Owens injured; as stated in the photo caption?

OPEN YOUR EYES

September 11th, 2012
10:57 pm

PEYTON IS COMING!!!!! EVERYBODY SAY YOUR PRAYERS CAUSE ITS BOUT TO GET REAL NASTY OUT THERE!!!!!

Falcon James

September 11th, 2012
11:09 pm

It really does not matter where Owen plays. Every QB in the league knows to throw the ball to whoever Dunta is covering if they want a sure bet completion and yards after the catch. The one thing we have going for us is the Offense is hitting on all cylinders and we can outscore them.

harold

September 11th, 2012
11:44 pm

owens will do just fine hes fast and very talented and on another note everybody got burned by greenbay i remember grimes letting their receiver score too

JSS

September 12th, 2012
12:05 am

@9:31P
“a blow hole”
Self-analysis is a heck of a thing…

Day One Fan

September 12th, 2012
2:54 am

Hmmmmm, 1-0 and 1-0. How does that make the sucs in first place and the Birds second? Flawed logic methinks.

falCANS

September 12th, 2012
5:58 am

Doubt if grimes got burned or shook. Just doesnt happen. He was such a security blanket

SeenThisBFalcon

September 12th, 2012
7:37 am

If the defensive line does there job and Mike Nolan sends pressure constantly instead of just laying back we should be fine, Peyton Manning is going to get his yards the key is to keep them out the endzone and limit them to three points instead of seven. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BALL WHO IS GOING TO STOP US…MATTY ICE….RODDY, JULIO, GONZALEZ, ETC TOO MANY MORE WEAPONS FOR MATTY THAN FOR PEYTON….RISE UP!!!!! FALCONS WIN 34-20.

Samuel

September 12th, 2012
8:06 am

The Denver Broncos will score points against a no Grimes defense. Being said that, the Falcons can score with the best of them under Dirk Koetter offense. I think some real good play has to come from the defensive front. I like to see Ray Edwards with a couple of sacks. It time for him to earn that paycheck. Also if Turner starts fast look for the Falcons to turn him a loose in the fourh Quarter. I guess it will come down to Mike Nolan vs Jack Delrio…

Cejay

September 12th, 2012
8:22 am

@12:05a
What a lame retort, you should just stick to attempting sports talk….12:05am on the Falcons blog???, really??

Seen This B4

September 12th, 2012
8:38 am

@Cejay: What’s a matter? You like to dish it out, but you don’t like it when it’s in reference to you? Criticizing JSS for the time of day he posts? Really??!!! LOL! Talk about being thin-skinned.

Chris Owens?! All of sudden I feel like having a New York Strip for breakfast.

Cejay

September 12th, 2012
8:55 am

@Seen
hahahaha man I could careless what he says…you know me better than that.LOL The time of post reference was to show he has nothing better to do at midnight. You can’t be on a blog and be thin skinned. Btw, I would gladly pick you being here over him, at least you let everyone know where you stand and who your team is and sometimes you even have relative things to say…..but him ?? no thanks.

Mike is Back

September 12th, 2012
8:55 am

Dled, it’s TIME for OWENS to step up…no more excuses…TIME to make some plays!!!!!

RISE UP BIRDS…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cejay

September 12th, 2012
8:59 am

relative*relevant

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

KQuark

September 12th, 2012
9:15 am

Owens can cover but has terrible ball skills. Unless Nolan and the other coaches can figure out how to coach him up he will struggle mightily against the better slot receivers.

Mikey

September 12th, 2012
9:23 am

Go Ownens… now is your chance to show them what you are made of. I hope you have the game of your life. GO Cris.! GO FALCONS!

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Falcons may give Christopher Owens the first shot at playing in the nickel [...]

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 12th, 2012
9:46 am

RESIGN OR RE-SIGN – NO. Just changed the caption.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 12th, 2012
9:48 am

the silverman – Matthews plays on 3 of 4 special teams. That’s why he was active for the first time.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 12th, 2012
9:57 am

JSS — They have some options, but Owens is going to get his shot inside. There will be games when they matchup up and don’t play sides. Wondering if they’ll match up against Denver. I would have thought Dunta outside in base, then inside in the nickel with Franks going outside. But Franks’ stock apparently has dropped from last season.

SeenThisBFalcon

September 12th, 2012
10:01 am

I believe in second chances and I don’t think Mike Nolan will make things so predictable like Van Gorder I’d expect to see Owens lined up outside at times and also in the middle..I’d expect were going to come with mixed looks to try and confuse Peyton Manning you hAVE TO GET PRESSURE….

JSS

September 12th, 2012
10:01 am

12:05 AM is only 9:05 PM in many places… And in the myopic mind (see any post by cejay) where their world only exists in their narrow view of time zones, sure it is late night creeping… In mine, we’re kicking story ideas and waiting to upload submissions… Sorry to burst your little bubble again boy made of wood…

SeenThisBFalcon

September 12th, 2012
10:02 am

SEENTHISB4 nice to see your AINT’S get whupped!!!! Oh ya 0-2 after Carolina beats up on Dree Bress…..0-2 the mighty SAINTS WONT BE MARCHING THIS YEAR..THEY’LL BE FISHING!!!

KC

September 12th, 2012
10:13 am

The thing with Peyton is you can’t blitz too often. He will eat your lunch if you do. The front 4 (or 3) will have to get pressure on their own. Time to Rise Up D-line!

tjhook

September 12th, 2012
10:15 am

If we lose Grimes after this season, I’d like to say “Thank you” to him for the great performances he gave the team. His efforts will be celebrated and missed. With that said, I am very hopeful that Chris Owens will have an upward surge in success this season. Payton may punish him next game but I believe that he will be a very important part of the defense’s success this season. The talent is there and having a seasoned vet like Samuel to coach him up should be enough to help the guy improve his game. Good luck, Chris!

KC

September 12th, 2012
10:19 am

Grimes gave us more than we could’ve hoped for last season. He really played above his natural ability. A guy of his size really beats their body down to perform at such a high level. He would’ve demanded a much higher contract than he’d probably be worth at the seasons end. They’ll probably re-sign him at a much discounted rate now… a blessing in disguise?

ATLJBO

September 12th, 2012
10:22 am

Prediction… Owens will shock alot of ppl