Falcons roster battles: Cornerback

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Up until a few weeks ago, the Falcons cornerback situation seemed set in stone. They had three distinct options and uninspiring depth behind them. However, now that they’ve signed veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard, this will be one of the most competitive competitions leading up to the season and perhaps the most important one.

A.J. Terrell

Had the Falcons not signed Dennard, A.J. Terrell’s performance probably would have been the most critical element to the defense. It still might be, but having a veteran like Dennard in the mix allows the Falcons to ease Terrell into the swing of things. However, I’m not sure that’s what they want to do.

Terrell has been going head-to-head with Julio Jones in practice and has had some success, which tells you there is no fear in his game, something Raheem Morris noticed in the National Championship against LSU. Terrell has also been consistently praised throughout the offseason for his ability to pick up on things quickly. The Falcons are probably planning on starting him out of the gate, but they have flexibility if he struggles early on.

Darqueze Dennard

I’m honestly surprised it took so long for the Falcons to add another veteran corner, but they finally did just before training camp, inking Darqueze Dennard to a one-year deal. The former Bengal has experience starting on both the inside and the outside, which should give Raheem Morris a fun piece to play with. The only thing that’s held him back over his career has been health. He’s only played in all 16 games once in his six-year career, but he has played in at least nine games every season. There’s really no doubt in my mind that he will be a starter in Week 1, whether it is on the outside or the inside. If he’s not on the field and healthy, it’s likely a promising sign for the progression of the Falcons young corners.

Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield

Of this group, Oliver is the only one to start all 16 games for the Falcons last season. That shouldn’t be enough to guarantee him a role in the starting lineup to begin 2020, but his performance in the second half of 2019 might. Oliver had a lot of problems in the first eight weeks of last season under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. However, once Raheem Morris took over the secondary, and eventually, some of the play-calling duties, Oliver and the defense was much more effective.

The competition will likely come down to Oliver and Kendall Sheffield. I’d give Oliver an edge in that battle because he’s a bit more experienced and did show some progress last season, but Sheffield has a ton of potential in his own right. Dan Quinn said earlier this offseason that he believes Sheffield eventually has the talent to become a #1 corner. The experience he gained last year after he was thrust into a starting role will be invaluable. If Oliver slips up, Sheffield is right there to back him up and vice versa.


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