With injury afoot, who will the Falcons start at nickel?

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The Falcons released their depth chart on Tuesday ahead of the team’s season opener versus the Saints. There were several important distinctions, the chief being Drew Dalman winning the starting center competition over Matt Hennessy. However, another notable starting position wasn’t exactly answered — the defense’s starting nickel corner. Below is the Falcons’ defensive depth chart:

Falcons depth chart
Position Starter Backup Reserve Reserve Reserve
DL Grady Jarrett Timothy Horne
DL Anthony Rush Abdullah Anderson
DL Ta’Quon Graham Matt Dickerson
OLB Adetokunbo Ogundeji Arnold Ebiketie Quinton Bell
LB Mykal Walker Troy Andersen Nate Landman
LB Rashaan Evans Nick Kwiatkoski
OLB Lorenzo Carter DeAngelo Malone
CB A.J. Terrell Mike Ford
S Richie Grant Erik Harris
S Jaylinn Hawkins Dean Marlowe
CB Casey Hayward Jr. Darren Hall Dee Alford

The obvious candidate, Isaiah Oliver, was placed on the injured reserve recently. It’s a little disappointing to see Oliver miss the first four games. He seemed to be working his way back and was on track to be ready for Week 1. The defense will surely miss his presence as the nickel corner. As it stands right now, Dean Pees will be choosing between some combination of Mike Ford, Darren Hall, Dee Alford, and the reserve safeties.

It might not be as straightforward as fans think, either. Some offensive personnel may dictate the fifth defensive back being a safety — used against bigger personnel units, usually with more tight ends or running backs. In contrast, more receivers would call for a corner to be the extra defender in nickel packages.

Going off the depth chart, the Falcons will likely turn to Hall or Ford, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons turned to the veteran Harris in some situations. He’s certainly not a reliable cover man, but he can play a variety of roles, which would again shift Hawkins or Grant to the slot.

Given his impressive offseason, I would like to see Alford get some burn. We won’t know until Sunday, but my money would be on the former CFL standout to assume most of the snaps until Oliver returns. But as I said before, the situation will dictate the personnel.

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
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