Brent Grimes represents a common story we know very well: a tough but undersized player from a small school works hard, refuses to give up, plays well, and works his way up to be an excellent and consistent starter in the pros. Grimes has the entire story down pat except for the very end. Can the tough as nails, but vertically challenged cornerback permanently take the starting spot opposite Dunta Robinson for the Atlanta Falcons? Grimes has a somewhat mixed bag of success as an NFL player, even though the track record is short after being in the NFL for three years. It’s a well known fact that Grimes is the pound-for-pound most athletic player on the team, at least according to Head Coach Mike Smith. Grimes quickness, speed, jumping ability, and high motor led a team high 6 interceptions and tied for 3rd in the entire NFL for most interceptions and he only started 8 games. In fact, only Charles Woodson and Asante Samuel had more INTs (9) and Grimes even tied the best cornerback in the NFL, Darrelle Revis, in terms of picks.
Although Grimes has one of the highest motors on the team and obviously has a nose for the ball, many fans believe that he simply is too short to compete on the highest level in the age of the extremely tall wide receiver a la Randy Moss, Marques Colston, and Brandon Marshall to name just a few. Grimes critics claim that he’s simply to short to perform on the highest level of the NFL and has performed pretty poorly overall, constantly getting beat on intermediate and deep routes alike. They will quickly point to both 2008 and 2009, where Grimes was unable to hang on to the starter position bestowed upon him. The Falcons CB got the hook in 2008 after the first 6 games in lieu of Domonique Foxworth and the pass defense improved. Foxworth also used the opportunity to parlay his good season into a high contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Grimes had another chance in 2009 where he got the starting nod once again after the bye, and once again was unable to hold the position. These fans may believe that Grimes is a solid corner that can play a part in the rotation, but not necessarily a starting cornerback. #20 did regain the starting CB spot again in the last four games and, along with Christopher Owens, helped the Birds go 3 and 1 in the final four stretch to end the curse of never having back-to-back winning seasons. So let the debate rage…….Can Brent Grimes finally put a lock on a starting cornerback spot?
Snaps – 718
Overall Comprehensive CB Ranking – 76th (-6.5 Rating)
Pass Coverage Rank – 75th (-3.1 Rating)
Run Defense Rank – 58th (+0.1 Rating)
Penalties – 84th (-4.5 Rating)
QB Pressures – 26th (1 Pressure)
Tackles – 19th (57)
Missed Tackles – 100th (10)
Defensive Stops – 37th (14)
Catch Percentage – 61st (62.4 – % of passes caught in their coverage)
Pass Yards Given Up – 90th (685 yards)
Yards Per Catch – 50th (11.8 yards per catch)
Yards After Catch – 89th (255 yards)
Longest Pass Given Up – 61 yards
TDs Given Up – Tied for 33rd (2 TDs)
Interceptions – Tied for 3rd (6 INTs)
Passes Defensed – Tied for 47th (6)
Opposing QB Rating – 16th (65.0 QB Rating)
Great Games – New York Jets, Tampa Bay Bucs (2nd), Chicago
Awful Games – New Orleans (2nd), New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys
Some of the ranks and stats aren’t pretty (pure pass coverage, yards after catch, total pass yards given up), but some of that can be attributed to the fact that the defensive line offered little to no pass rush and the entire linebacker corps could muster only 4 total sacks. Even the best cornerbacks can only hold for so long without a good pass rush. Besides interceptions, Grimes ranks fairly high in several categories including tackles and QB pressures and TDs given up, but the biggest one to look at is his extremely high rank in terms of holding the opposing QB to a low quarterback rating (ranked 16th in NFL). It will be a huge battle between Grimes and Owens for the open CB spot, and Grimes will definitely be a lock for the nickel back position, but good money says that learning the ropes in the line of fire and understanding his past mistakes will prove this is the year Grimes takes a hold of the cornerback position on a permanent basis.
Grimes does have a place in the Falcons secondary, perhaps even as the nickel back, but he is not starter worthy in the NFL. He is extremely athletic, a hard worker, and tough as nails, but he simply just doesn’t have it to be a #2 corner in the NFL, at least for the Birds. He has had several opportunities to show that he is capable of doing what’s needed to keep wide receivers to a minimum. True shutdown corners just don’t come along that often, but Grimes often struggles to be a complementary cornerback and handle the opposing team’s number 2 receiver.
His height is not a big a deal as some make it, but he definitely has issues going up against taller and bigger receivers (Muhsin Muhammed two years ago?). Assuming Chris Houston was matched up on Steve Smith of the Giants this year, then Grimes was torched by Mario Manningham for 126 yards. Grimes may can play another position, but when he runs up against a talented receiving corps, he just can’t deliver. When #20 ran up against a talented receiving corps as a starter, he had a very bad pass coverage outing (Giants, Saints, Cowboys). He ranked in the very bottom half in terms of yards given up (90th), yards after catch (89th), and penalties (84th). Surely, all wasn’t his fault with a weak pass rush, but Grimes has a very difficult time lining up as a starter and locking down a receiver one-on-one. This doesn’t exonerate the other CBs either, but Chris Owens was a true rookie and gets a little more of a pass than does Grimes in his third year. Maybe Grimes can find a perfect fit at nickel because he has to be considered among the top 3 cornerbacks, but he had ample opportunities to prove he is a starter and failed.
-Is Brent Grimes starter worthy in the NFL?
-Will Grimes seize the open CB spot opposite Dunta Robinson?
-Can #20 be a legit cornerback for the Falcons?
-Is Grimes destined for nickel or dime back?
-Has the Falcons CB had enough chances?
-Is #20 too short to be a starter?