Expectations were high when Dunta was signed by the Falcons in 2009.
Touted by many analysts as the best cornerback in the 2009 Free Agent class, he was signed to a six-year, $54 million deal that made him one of the highest-paid CB’s in the NFL at the time.
The cornerback out of South Carolina was picked up by the Texans with the tenth overall draft pick in 2004. Earning a reputation with his physical, hard-nosed playing style, he was immediately named the starter his rookie season by Dom Capers. Dunta proved his worth by recording six interceptions and winning the Pro Football Writers Association’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
When Dunta was signed by Thomas Dimitroff in 2009, the Falcons were fresh off a playoff loss to the Kurt Warner-lead Arizona Cardinals, who went on to compete in the Super Bowl XXL. The defense was sorely lacking playmakers in the secondary. Fans looked at the addition of Dunta as an immediate upgrade, and were hoping he would emerge as a ball hawk in Brian VanGorder’s 4-3 zone scheme.
The result was three interceptions in two years.
Disappointed in the two point showing against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, Arthur Blank and Mike Smith decided to let VanGorder and his 4-3 zone scheme go along with the vertically-inept Mike Mularkey.
Both coordinators were replaced with Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan.
Mike Nolan orchestrated some pretty good defenses while with his previous team, the Miami Dolphins (6th in 2010, 15th in 2012). I was interested to see who would step up and become a star in a scheme that allows players to be aggressive and take risks.
Dunta has been one of my surprises.
Trying to label Dunta as a ball-hawk or a shut-down cornerback isn’t fair to how he contributes to this defense. Dunta has always been a tough, physical corner that smothers receivers and makes tackles that most corners wouldn’t even attempt. Before the concussion, he was starting to emerge as one of the better all-around CB’s in the NFL. He has gotten lost in coverage a few times, but overall, Dunta has improved his play drastically from last year. I’ve watched him get better week after week and even though his stats don’t show it, he’s been very disruptive. A far-cry from last year when he was looked at as a liability.
Those of you who think that Atlanta would be better off without him are sadly mistaken. Dunta perserverence inspires the entire defense. When he gets knocked down, he gets back up and never gives under 100%. He’s also fearless in pursuit of anyone who runs to his side with the football with their hands. His hard-hitting style also sets the tone for the defense, when he’s not knocking himself out. I think he will be at his best and show his true worth when the Seahawks visit The Dome this Sunday.
Nothing cheap, nothing deep, Dunta…