As the regular season nears, we’re counting down the 20 most important players on the Atlanta Falcons roster. At No. 17 is cornerback Jalen Collins.
Jalen Collins will want to forget about his rookie season in a hurry, but the investment the Falcons made in him a year ago ensures he’s one of the most important players on the roster.
Selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Falcons need Collins to become a player even somewhat resembling what they hoped they had drafted.
First, they will need to wait for the second-year man to serve his four-game suspension, leaving the Falcons thin at the cornerback position early in the year.
Dan Quinn’s defense boasts one of the best young cornerbacks in the game in Desmond Trufant, and he forms a strong paring with Robert Alford, but depth is the major issue. Collins was expected to come in and complete a talented trio, but he’s been underwhelming to date.
What makes Collins’ return in Week 5 all the more important is Alford’s future. Alford is shifting inside to take over the nickelback duties, and NFL teams spend around 60 percent of the time in nickel packages. Alford will still line up outside in the base defense, but the position is open when the Falcons go into nickel.
The hope is Collins can make the job his own when returning from suspension. If he can make a significant jump from his disappointing rookie campaign, the Falcons could boast one of the best young secondaries in the entire league. That’s how important Collins is.
History can’t be reversed. The Falcons opted for Collins in the second round of the draft, and now much stick with him through his highs and lows. The hope is we see more of the former rather than the latter.
It could make all the difference.