We've covered rookies Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant in our position battles series, but now it's time to look at the returning corner backs from last season's squad that are still with the team.
Asante Samuel had a resurgent year for the Falcons last season, posting his highest number of passes defended since 2008 with an impressive 19 last year. The veteran corner had five interceptions and 34 total tackles, all very respectable numbers.
Samuel can still put up good numbers, but more than anything, it's his veteran presence that has added swagger and leadership that the Falcons secondary hadn't really possessed before his arrival.
He's also been a big help to rookies Trufant and Alford, showing them the ropes of the NFL and preparing both of them to take his place whenever he steps aside.
Samuel still possesses good speed, nice hands and knows how to cover receivers, but he's not as physical as he once was in his earlier years. His tackling form at times leaves much to be desired. He leads with his head too often and doesn't wrap up nearly as much as he should. He's also not great during running plays, often being physically outmatched by blocking receivers.
Still, Samuel's leadership and overall nose for the ball will be key for the Falcons this year. He's an experienced postseason veteran, having won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and going to the playoffs with the Philadelphia Eagles multiple times. He was part of last season's Falcons playoff team as well. Right now, he's the number one starting left corner on the depth chart, and don't expect that to change. Samuel should have another good season leading Mike Nolan's complex secondary coverage schemes.
Robert McClain was another nice pick up for GM Thomas Dimitroff last season. In need of a solid nickel cornerback, Dimitroff took a chance on the former seventh round draft pick who had been waived by the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars respectively.
McClain only had only 14 total tackles, one pass defended and no interceptions in 2010. He didn't even play in 2011, so when the Falcons signed him last season, many scratched their heads.
But in Mike Nolan's system, McClain thrived. He posted career highs in every statistical category with 61 combined tackles, 10 passes defended and one interception. These are great numbers for a nickel corner (especially the tackles), and looks poised to have an even better season in year two under coach Nolan.
The Falcons secondary is easily the strongest part of the defense. There's a great mix of youth and experience at cornerback, and two all-pros at both safety positions in William Moore and Thomas DeCoud
Next time we'll take a look at other players within the secondary vying for a roster spot along with Moore and Decoud's breakout seasons last year.
Here are other position battles we have broken down so far:
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- Atlanta Falcons Position Battles: Secondary (Part 1)- the Future
- Atlanta Falcons Position Battles: Secondary (Part 2)- the Challenger
- Atlanta Falcons Position Battles:Linebackers Prologue- Projected Starters
- Atlanta Falcons Position Battles: Defensive Line- Part 2: Fighting for Position
- Atlanta Falcons Position Battles Defensive Line- Part I: Mainstays
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