McClain’s turn in secondary

Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, for one, is not surprised to see Robert McClain’s rapid ascension from obscurity to opportunistic playmaker.

“Playing in this league nine years, I understand anything can happen on any given Sunday,” Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “If you are up, you’ve just got to be ready because you never know what can happen.”

It’s cliché because, sometimes, it’s true. Just look at the serious of circumstances that led to McClain making a big play for the Falcons against Denver on Monday and now possibly filling a key role Sunday at San Diego.

Odds were McClain would be cut before the season. Instead, he made the team after a strong preseason.

Because of Atlanta’s depth at cornerback it seemed likely McClain would be on the inactive list most weeks. Then Brent Grimes suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the season-opening game and McClain was elevated to the active roster for Monday’s game against Denver.

Still, Grimes didn’t figure to see much playing time against the Broncos because Atlanta still had old pros Robinson and Asante Samuel in addition to backups Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens. That all changed when both Owens and then Samuel left with injuries in the first quarter.

Suddenly McClain was on the field and Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley was running a route on his side of the field. Peyton Manning passed to Stokley but McClain broke on the ball and stepped in front of Stokley to make a leaping interception.

It was McClain’s first interception in 17 career games. He downplayed his the effort, saying “someone is going to make a play that makes a difference” when all 11 players are doing their jobs and the play call is right.

Falcons coach Mike Smith, however, said the “very feisty” McClain has a knack for making plays.

“Every time that he’s gotten an opportunity to go out on the field, he’s made something happen,” Smith said. “He did that again [Monday]. He got in for a couple snaps, had the nice interception, nice return. He’s a guy that’s played a little bit in the league, but doesn’t have a whole lot of game experience.”

McClain could gain more at San Diego. Owens is in the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a head injury against Denver; if he doesn’t play, McClain is in line to be at least the fourth quarterback.

McClain hasn’t played significant snaps since 2010, when he played in all 16 games with two starts as a rookie with Carolina. After the Panthers cut him before the 2011 season he caught on with Jacksonville for a couple weeks in December but stayed on the inactive list.

Now this could be another chance for McClain to show he deserves to stick in the league.

“I’m excited but, at the same time, I’ve got to do my job,” he said. “I’m ready to do my job.”

If Owens is out Sunday it’s possible McClain’s role could be expanded beyond just being the sixth defensive back in passing situations. Smith said Franks “did a nice job” as the nickel back against Denver but noted that the Falcons used several personnel groups and rotations in the defensive backfield in the first two games.

Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers watched the Falcons-Broncos game live and said he didn’t notice much drop off in Atlanta’s secondary because all of the injuries.

“I thought all of them contributed and played well,” he said. “They are super active and always moving around. You never get a great feel for what they are going to do. It’s kind of ‘next man up,’ It was an unfortunate injury two weeks ago to Grimes but guys have just stepped up.”

McClain is trying to make it in the league as a long shot after the Panthers selected him in the seventh round of the draft. He was a good player in college but toiled in relative obscurity at Connecticut, where he earned Big East accolades as a return man and cornerback for some good defensive units.

Robinson said he’d seen McClain make plenty of plays in practice before doing the same against the Broncos. His message for McClain: making this team means he can play because the Falcons are deep at cornerback.

“No matter who’s in, no matter who’s injured, who’s healthy these guys can step up and get the job done,” Robinson said.

20 comments Add your comment

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
12:29 pm


September 21st, 2012
12:37 pm

Sixth paragraph – referenced Grimes when it should be McClain
11th paragraph – McClain is in line to be at least the fourth QUARTERBACK? should be CORNERBACK.


September 21st, 2012
12:37 pm

Seen- I would say “last” is more appropriate for you.

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
12:46 pm

@HAL: And let’s see what would be appropriate for you? How ’bout, “nitwit”.


September 21st, 2012
12:48 pm

Wordsmith; perhaps Mcclain is the emergency 4th string QB? That would be quiet an emergency though.. let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.


September 21st, 2012
12:50 pm

Seen; do you have a job? I mean you’re always at the tops of every blog.


September 21st, 2012
12:51 pm

I normally wouldn’t say anything about a couple writing errors, but this story is filled with them. Decent content, but the writing made it difficult to read.

However, hopefully McClain can play well with his opportunity. Grimes came out of nowhere and look how well that turned out.


September 21st, 2012
12:52 pm

After Grimey went down I would have laughed at the statement “the Falcons are deep at cornerback”. But with Nolan’s agressive scheme…maybe we’ll be ok. Bottom line is Nolan was a GREAT pick-up by Smitty! Couldn’t be happier with the hire.


September 21st, 2012
12:56 pm

Let’s go, Dirty Birds!


September 21st, 2012
1:00 pm


September 21st, 2012
1:06 pm

Poor seen falcons are just gonna keep winning and the saints are done after only two weeks. And dont get it twisted, they are done. Its gonna feel so good when atl sweeps no and goes to the superbowl in your crappy city. get ready to be dominated for the next ten years saints fans.

Joe Tess Fish House

September 21st, 2012
1:24 pm

@ KC

No most of the blogers hear R not very smrat and R always saying dum thigs.

David Beard

September 21st, 2012
1:26 pm

Lots of type-o’s in this article. Appreciate the effort but ya may want to go back and give this write-up a quick edit.

Another AJC blogger proof read fail.....

September 21st, 2012
1:33 pm

Agree with David Beard.

To the blog author…..It is your job to write for a large publication. You should do a better job as you represent this publication. If you can’t do it, I will.

Another AJC blogger proof read fail.....

September 21st, 2012
1:41 pm

When the Fish House points out errors in discourse, you know you have a problem!


September 21st, 2012
1:59 pm

To you supposed proofreading wordsmiths: If you catch a mistake a guy makes – which you did – maybe just send the guy an email and alert him so that he can fix it, instead of jumping up and down, pointing and yelling like a child who just learned something himself.

It’s not a print publication, so things aren’t proofed as much as they used to be, and we have a guy who is doing his job, getting information and relaying that as soon as possible for our FREE reading pleasure. The emphasis is more on expedience than the proofreading. It may well have been that Dled wanted to pop something off for us and move on to something else he wanted to look at – FOR US.

You guys are all on this blog all the time, yet you throw insults at the supplier of it for fun. Take a little bit of proprietorship in it yourselves and just convey the mistakes you see (in this case, they were fairly obvious) in a decent way. I used to write for a print publication, and it’s amazing how many mistakes one doesn’t see, even after proofing it, until it comes out on print.

Words that one is used to typing all the time just get typed. Then they get overlooked because the author still reads the word that he was thinking, not the word that he typed.

So don’t be so juvenile. The man’s email is listed. I’m sure he would appreciate anyone catching his mistakes, but nobody appreciates you guy’s acting like reading the wrong word caused you some kind of physical harm. GROW UP!!!


September 21st, 2012
2:24 pm

Excited to see him step up…. Still a Franks fan tho

Michael M.

September 21st, 2012
5:24 pm

You know why STBzip is always trying to be first on D-leds blogs………………because he is admitting he is a fan of the Rise-up Nation……………..simple as that. Get your Falcon hat and towel ready STBzip…..the more cheerleaders we got like you…..the higher the score will be for the Falcons ! ! !

and by the way…………………the Caints better play football this weekend and win that game or otherwise you are going to be laughed at right out of here……roll that up tight in a paper and take a toke on it and you will get a Falcon’s high……………………………………

Rise up Atlanta………………………………………………….

Falcons Chic

September 21st, 2012
11:41 pm

Rise up is one thing, but I want my D-Block cap

Titletown USA

September 23rd, 2012
7:03 am

We have become a nation of “correctors” , it must be sad to have to always be the one complaining about a misspelled word of sentence fragment…..especially when you get this for FREE.