The Atlanta Falcons‘ cornerback spot took one major loss in Brent Grimes and one minor loss in Dunta Robinson leaving via free agency this offseason, and it leaves a lot of open snaps for young players to fill up. While Robert Alford, Dominique Franks and first-round rookie Desmond Trufant will all battle for playing time at the spot behind No. 1 corner Asante Samuel, Robert McClain might have the most interesting stock to watch this training camp after a quietly strong 2012 campaign.
It was feared the Falcons’ secondary would cave in down the stretch last season when injuries hit the unit hard. Strong safety William Moore sat out for extended time while the cornerback position lost Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel for varying amounts and Brent Grimes landed on injured reserve at the outset. It was a no-name secondary of guys stepping up like Chris Owens, who left for the Cleveland Browns in free agency this offseason, and McClain helping stick this unit together.
McClain would finish 2012 with the 12th-highest cornerback grade by Pro Football Focus. Of course, Mike Nolan‘s defensive wizardry also gets plenty of credit, but it’s players like McClain who made this happen on the field and this could translate to retaining a starting spot in camp.
“(McClain) was the fifth guy that we tried at nickel,” Falcons secondary coach Tim Lewis reflected on the 2012 season, via the team’s website. “During the bye week, we trained him and he started there after and didn’t look back. “The NFL is all about opportunity. It’s about being prepared when your number is called and he did that.”