What the Jalen Collins suspension means for Atlanta


Collins was considered a reach by many when he was drafted in the second-round by the Falcons in 2015. He was viewed as a project for a numbers of reasons. The first of which being his off-the-field issues that led to him receiving limited playing time while he was at LSU. He possessed all the physical tools to be an elite NFL corner, but there was no telling if he would ever get out of his own way to reach his full potential.

When he got to Atlanta, it was clear he also was not nearly as developed as most rookie corners coming into the NFL. He received limited playing time, but the next bit of news was enough for Falcons fans to begin giving up already on the second-round pick. Collins was busted for PED use and suspended for the first four games of his second season. It seemed Quinn’s leap of faith was for not, as Collins was not becoming the type of player on or off the field that the team had envisioned.

But behind closed doors, Collins kept working, and after an unexpected injury to the team’s star corner, it was Collins’s time to shine in his second season. He became the team’s starting corner, and surprisingly the defense did not miss a beat. Actually, they were statistically much better. Now, that is not to say Collins was much better than Trufant, but he did grade out better in coverage according to PFF than the former pro-bowl corner and showed the kind of elite potential that the Falcons saw when they drafted him.

One of the big questions coming into this season was what was going to happen to Collins with Trufant’s return. The answer seemed to be Collins would return to his backup role. Robert Alford owns the job on the other side, and Brian Poole served as one of the best nickel corners in the league as a rookie last season. There was the possibility that Collins could earn a starting spot, forcing either Trufant or Alford to move to the nickel corner, although, that seemed unlikely. Collins had earned a spot in the rotation, but he was not going to start again without an injury.

That does not mean yesterday’s breaking news is not a huge blow to the Falcons.

Collins was suspended ten games by the league for a second PED violation.

Now, a bigger question is whether Collins will be among players cut prior to this season.

Like every season, depth often times will determine which team reaches the Super Bowl, especially in the loaded NFC. Teams are going to have heartbreaking injuries and losses throughout this season, but it is the team that is the best prepared for those losses that will be the last one standing.

The good news about this particular loss is that the Falcons are loaded at the cornerback position. Beyond their starters, both Collins and C.J Godwin have made names for themselves on this team. Quinn trusts thrusting them into any situation. Now with Collins out, that depth gets a little thinner. Atlanta should not miss a beat without Collins on the field, but this situation gets a whole lot more interesting if another corner goes down.

The Falcons showed off their depth in the secondary last season when they lost Desmond Trufant to a season-ending injury and still made it to the Super Bowl. They will certainly be able to survive ten games without Jalen Collins. However, losing a significant player for this long early in the season is never a promising sign for a team looking to avoid a Super Bowl hangover and return to the big game.

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