Each year, every NFL team seems to have one player who went largely unnoticed in prior years, but who comes from out of nowhere to dazzle fans and coaches. With the departure of cornerbacks Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes and Christopher Owens now complete, fourth-year corner Robert McClain has his chance to shine and become that player for the 2013 Atlanta Falcons.
McClain showed flashes of what he’s capable of in 2012, and given more playing time and the confidence of his coaches, he’ll be an even better cover corner than Grimes once was.
Guys like McClain are perfect for the Falcons, coming from a lesser known football program (Connecticut) and lingering in the 2010 draft until the Carolina Panthers took a chance on him in the seventh round, he’s got underdog written all over him–much like the franchise he now plays for.
He didn’t produce a lot in his rookie season with Carolina, and then the following year with the Jacksonville Jaguars he didn’t even play in a single game, being released before the season even ended.
But coming to Atlanta in 2012, McClain took advantage of the opportunities presented to him, tallying a career high 61 tackles (53 solo), ten passes defended, one interception and two fumble recoveries–all this while only starting in three of the 15 games he appeared in.
What you have to like about McClain is his attitude and work ethic. Coaches can’t say enough about how hard he works in practice, and how quickly he picks up on techniques and schemes, not surprising given that while in college he was awarded the Brian Kozlowski Award “designated for a courageous, hard working and productive person”.
McClain has great footwork, backpedals nicely, and rarely finds himself out of position. While not the speediest corner in the league, he’s got technique and smarts that make up for his lack of speed. Spending a season studying the various techniques of Robinson and Asante Samuel, as well as I’m sure talking a great deal to Grimes, brings some great things to his game.
As it stands right now, McClain is the number two corner on the Falcons roster behind the veteran ball hawk Samuel, and while many of the experts have Atlanta picking a top corner in this year’s NFL Draft, it doesn’t mean that McClain would necessarily lose his place in line.